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He wrote a thesis about the origins of cultural divergence

News: Jun 22, 2020

On the 12th of June, Hoang-Anh Ho defended his thesis Essays on Culture, Institutions and Economic Development, where he studies how differences in culture and institutions arise across societies.

”In my thesis, I study the origins of cultural divergence along the individualism-collectivism dimension across modern societies, the emergence of private property rights in historical societies, and the impact of land privatization on rural economic development in a developing country.”

Why did you choose to study this subject?
”I have had a strong interest in economic development since I studied the MSc in Economics program at the University of Gothenburg. When I entered the PhD program, there had been an increasing volume of research pointing to the importance of culture and institutions in explaining comparative economic development. Thus, among many questions constantly occupying my mind were: ’why do culture and institutions differ substantially across societies, often within the same country?’. And it only took a ’fika’ with Ola Olsson, who then became one of my supervisors, to nudge me into a research adventure that brought about the present thesis.”

What are your conclusions?
”First, the selective migration of individualistic people out of collectivistic societies in the past was an important driver of the cultural divergence along the individualism-collectivism dimension across modern societies. Second, the state has a central role in explaining the emergence of different regimes of property rights. In particular, insecure land rights (rights to cultivate but not sale or transfer), which were often found in historical societies, were devised to tie the peasants to their agricultural land for the benefits of the states and more secure land rights only arose when the interests of the states dictated so. Third, giving formal titles to agricultural land is not enough to boost rural economic development to a significant extent.”

Who could benefit from your study and how?
”I would say that my thesis contributes to the stock of knowledge that has accumulated over many generations of research, and it is from this stock of knowledge that any benefit should be drawn. Culture and institutions are important in explaining individual behaviors and economic development. Thus, understanding the origins of culture and institutions would benefit both social scientists and policy makers alike.”

TitleEssays on Culture, Institutions and Economic Development
Candidate: Hoang-Anh Ho, Department of Economics, University of Gothenburg
Opponent: Professor Peter Sandholt Jensen, Institut for Virksomhedsledelse og Ökonomi, Syddansk Universitet, Odense, Denmark
Grading Committee Members:
Professor Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, Department of Economics, York University, Toronto, Kanada
Docent Kerstin Enflo, Ekonomisk-historiska institutionen, Lunds universitet
Professor Dick Durevall, Institutionen för nationalekonomi med statistik, Handelshögskolan vid Göteborgs universitet
Chair: Professor Ola Olsson

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