Seminar: Culture and Institutions

Course content

A large number studies has shown that institutions matter for a variety of economic outcomes. A growing body of research has complemented that idea, by showing that culture is equally relevant for a number of macroeconomic and microeconomic outcomes. And recently, these two strands of research have been integrated,  in studies focused on the two way causality between culture and insitutions, and therefore their interdependence and coevlution.

The purpose of seminars is extending our understanding of (a) the independent roles that culture and institutions play for societies’ economic and political development, and (b) the interaction between different cultural and institutional characteristics, in a comparative perspective.

Students will write short empirical papers, focused on any country or region of the world, and on a particular cultural or institutional issue, to estimate and analyze its impact for different economic or political outcomes. Examples of cultural aspects that can be studied in this seminar are: gender equality, generalized trust, collectivism and individualism, risk and uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation, etc. Examples of instituional aspects are democracy, auticracy, corruption, the structure of markets, competition, contractual systems, property rights. Students in this seminar can also choose to make an empirical analysis of the interaction between culture and institutions. Finally, students’ can choose to focus an unexplored angle in the existing literature, or in the revision of existing studies.


MSc programme in Economics

The seminar is primarily for students at the MSc of Economics

Learning outcome

After completing the seminar, the student should be able to:


  • understand the contribution of a particular cultural or institutional aspect to a specific economic or political outcome,

  • estimate the contribution of the aspect studied, and gauge its robustness and potential for generalization, and

  • relate the results of the paper to those of existing studies on the topic;


  • design a research strategy to conduct empirical analysis on the economic or political impact of cultural and instituional features, or to further our understanding of the interaction between culture and institutions, and

  • interpret and evaluate the validity of empirical and comparative research,


  • communicate the results of own empirical analysis and theoretical argumentation, in the context of an academic discussion,

  • incorporate suggestions received from external revisions of one’s own work, and provide constructive criticism to others’ work.

Planning/start-up meeting, research and writing process of the seminar paper, sessions with presentation of own paper and critical evaluation/feedback to another student´s paper, actively participating in discussions at class.

Before the session a "so-finalized-as-possible"-draft of the paper must be uploaded in Absalon. After the presentations, the student submit an edited version of the paper in the Digital Exam portal as the final exam paper. The aim is that students use the presentation sessions as an opportunity to receive and use the constructive feedback to improve the paper.

  • Alesina, Alberto and Paola Giuliano (2015), “Culture and Institutions.” Journal of Economic Literature 53(4): 898-944.

  • Gorodnichenko, Yurij and Gerard Roland (2017), “Culture, institutions and the wealth of nations.” Forthcoming in Review of Economics and Statistics.

  • Tabellini, Guido (2010), “Culture and Institutions: Economic Development in the Regions of Europe.” Journal of the European Economic Association 8(4): 677-716.

  • Tabellini, Guido (2008), “Institutions and Culture.” Journal of the European Economic Association 6(2/3): 255-294.

  • Lowes, Sara, Nathan Nunn, James A Robinson, and Jonathan Weigel (2017), “The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence from the Kuba Kingdom”. Forthcoming in Econometrica.

  • Moscona, Jacob, Nathan Nunn, and James A Robinson (2017), “Keeping it in the Family: Lineage Organization and the Scope of Trust in Sub-Saharan Africa”. American Economic Review 107(4).

  • Nunn, Nathan (2012), “Culture and the Historical Process.” Economic History of Developing Regions 27(S1): 108-126.

  • Nunn, Nathan, and Leonard Wantchekon (2011), “The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa.” American Economic Review 101(7): 3221-3252.

  • Alesina, Alberto, Paula Giuliano and Nathan Nunn (2013), “The Origin of Gender Roles, Women and the Plough.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 128(2): 469-530.


Development economics; and simple regression analysis and instrumental variables from Econometrics I are requisites.

Students will benefit from having taken: Advanced Development Economics: Macro Aspects, Applied Econometric Policy Evaluation, and Economic History – but these courses are not requisites

• Planning meeting: Monday September 4, 13-14
• Extra days of introducing teaching: Tuesday Sept 12 and 19, 13-15
• Deadline commitmentpaper: In agreement with the lecturer and not later than 1st of October.
• Deadline of pre-paper uploaded to Absalon: Week 43
• Presentations/Workshops: Week 44

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
- a seminar paper in English that meets the formal requirements for written papers stated in the curriculum and at KUNet for seminars.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

The student must in a satisfactory way demonstrate that he/she has mastered the learning outcome of the course and the objectives stated in the Curriculum.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Seminar
  • 20
  • Project work
  • 186
  • English
  • 206