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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of Economics

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Open Access Policy Deposits

This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by UC Berkeley Department of Economics researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.

Culture, Institutions and the Wealth of Nations


We construct an endogenous growth model that includes a cultural variable along the dimension of individualism-collectivism. The model predicts that more individualism leads to more innovation because of the social rewards associated with innovation in an individualist culture. This cultural effect may offset the negative effects of bad institutions on growth. Collectivism leads to efficiency gains relative to individualism, but these gains are static, unlike the dynamic effect of individualism on growth through innovation. Using genetic data as instruments for culture we provide strong evidence of a causal effect of individualism on income per worker and total factor productivity as well as on innovation. The baseline genetic markers we use are interpreted as proxies for cultural transmission but others have a direct effect on individualism and collectivism, in line with recent advances in biology and neuro-science. The effect of culture on long-run growth remains very robust even after controlling for the effect of institutions and other factors. We also provide evidence of a two-way causal effect between culture and institutions.

Forward Guidance and Household Expectations


AbstractWe compare causal effects of forward guidance about future interest rates on households’ expectations of inflation and nominal mortgage rates to the effects of communication about inflation in a randomized control trial using more than 20,000 U.S. consumers in the Nielsen Homescan Panel. We elicit consumers’ expectations, and then provide 22 different forms of information regarding past, current, and/or future interest rates and inflation. Information treatments about current or future interest rates all have similar and offsetting effects on interest rate and inflation expectations, yielding limited pass-through into perceived real rates. Information about mortgage rates has much more powerful effects on interest rate perceptions, with no offsetting effects on inflation expectations, thereby delivering much larger changes in perceived real rates. Revisions in perceived real rates causally lead to changes in the ex-post purchases of durable goods by households.

Secular Stagnation: Policy Options and the Cyclical Sensitivity in Estimates of Potential Output


The fact that most of the persistent declines in output since the Great Recession have parlayed into equivalent declines in measures of potential output is commonly interpreted as implying that output will not return to previous trends. Using a variety of estimates of potential output for the U.S. and other countries, we show that these estimates respond gradually not only to supply-side shocks but also respond to demand shocks that have only transitory effects on output. Observing a revision in measures of potential output therefore says little about whether concurrent changes in actual output are likely to be permanent or not.