Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Structure and Dynamics

Structure and Dynamics bannerUC Irvine

Weight Matrices for Cultural Proximity: Deriving Weights from a Language Phylogeny


Galton’s Problem is one of identifying functional relationships in a set of observations where the observations may be related through borrowing or descent. The problem has long been recognized in the fields of anthropology and cross-cultural research, but has been neglected in economics, even in cases where it is likely to be most acute, such as in regression models where each observation is a nation. The appropriate treatment for Galton’s Problem was developed in the 1980s by Malcolm M. Dow, Douglas R. White, and Michael L. Burton. Their solution is to estimate spatial models, where weight matrices for physical distance control for relationships of borrowing, and weight matrices for linguistic similarity control for relationships of descent. This paper documents a method for estimating a weight matrix based on language phylogenetic relationships. The method is applied to the 186 cultures of the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, and applied to a set of 216 nations. The resulting weight matrices are made available for any researchers wishing to control for Galton’s Problem.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View