The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence from the Kuba Kingdom

Sara Lowes, Nathan Nunn, James A. Robinson, and Jonathan Weigel. 7/2017. Econometrica, 85, 4, Pp. 1065-1091. Coverage by Cato InstitutePDFAppendix.

We use variation in historical state centralization to examine the impact of institutions on cultural norms. The Kuba Kingdom, established in Central Africa in the early 17th century by King Shyaam, had more developed state institutions than the other independent villages and chieftaincies in the region. It had an unwritten constitution, separation of political powers, a judicial system with courts and juries, a police force and military, taxation, and significant public goods provision. Comparing individuals from the Kuba Kingdom to those from just outside the Kingdom, we find that centralized formal institutions are associated with weaker norms of rule-following and a greater propensity to cheat for material gain.