Long-run cultural divergence: Evidence from the Neolithic Revolution

Ola Olsson, Christopher Paik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper investigates the long-run influence of the Neolithic Revolution on contemporary cultural norms as reflected in the dimension of collectivism-individualism. We present a theory of agricultural origins of cultural divergence, where we claim that the advent of farming in a core region was characterized by collectivist values and eventually triggered the out-migration of individualistic farmers towards more and more peripheral areas. This migration pattern caused the initial cultural divergence, which remained persistent over generations. Using detailed data on the date of adoption of Neolithic agriculture among Western regions and countries, the empirical findings show that the regions which adopted agriculture early also value obedience more and feel less in control of their lives. The findings add to the literature by suggesting the possibility of extremely long-lasting norms and beliefs influencing today's socioeconomic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-213
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Development Economics
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Comparative development
  • Neolithic agriculture
  • Western reversal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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