The Culture Divide

Salem Policy Lunch

Romain Wacziarg, Professor of Economics, UCLA

October 17th, 2019

This paper studies the cultural convergence and divergence in the United States over time. Using the General Social Survey, we document the evolution of cultural divides between groups, defined according to 11 identity cleavages (gender, religion, race, income, region, education. . . ). Between-group heterogeneity is small: the United States is very pluralistic, but this is primarily due to within-group heterogeneity. On average, between-group heterogeneity fell from 1972 to the late 1990s, and grew thereafter. We interpret these findings using a model of cultural change where intergenerational transmission and forces of social influence determine the distribution of cultural traits in society.