Can Policy Change Culture? Government Pension Plans and Traditional Kinship Practices
- American Economic Review (Forthcoming)
Policies may change the incentives that allow cultural practices to persist.
To test this, I study matrilocality and patrilocality, kinship traditions
that determine daughters’ and sons’ post-marriage residences and
thus, which gender lives with and supports parents in their old age. Two
separate policy experiments in Ghana and Indonesia show that pension
policies reduce the practice of these traditions. I also show that these
traditions incentivize parents to invest in the education of children who
traditionally co-reside with them. Consequently, when pension plans
change cultural practices, they also reduce educational investment. This
finding further demonstrates that policy can change culture.
Keywords: cultural transmission, cultural change, kinship traditions,
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