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Institutions, Culture, and Development

Priority areas of development: economics
Department: Laboratory for Applied Analysis of Institutions and Social Capital

The reported project covers various aspects of the interplay between institutions, culture, and development. 

The contribution of institutions and culture to development can be properly assessed and analyzed only if both factors are considered jointly at the national, regional and local levels. It is well-known that effectiveness and performance of institutions depends on norms and values of the population, while these norms and values in their turn are influenced by institutions. Analyses of such interplays are of high theoretical significance (including significance for institutional economics), and of high relevance for policy-making and institutional reform. It is also important to visualize historical origins of norms and values, and to understand the process of cultural change and factors involved in this process.

The project incorporates a number of studies which are thematically, methodologically and informationally integrated with each other. The studies cover both general aspects of the impact of institutions and culture for development, and specific problems and dilemmas of economic performance, national and subnational governance, education, market reforms, regional development and community self-organization, international relations, and the relevance of recent and distant history for modern societies and cultural patterns.

Goal of research

The main goals of the project were as follows:

  • Use various cases and sources of empirical information to reveal, illustrate, and analyze the inter-connections between institutions, culture and development  
  • Develop theoretical models of such inter-connectedness and test the implications and hypotheses derived from such models by using empirical data
  • To study historical roots of culture and demonstrate the relevance of history for norms and values of contemporary societies
  • Investigate the impact of human and social capital on political institutions and municipal governance

In accordance with the above goals, the following research projects were implemented:

  • Interaction of municipal governments and local communities in Russia  institutions
  • Local public goods in the Russia city  
  • Horizontal social capital and civic culture  
  • Regional institutions and land ownership by Russian firms  
  • Allocation of talent in Russia regions: factors of the choice  of fields of study by Russian university applicants
  • WWII and the values of contemporary Russians  
  • Education and democracy in Russian regions
  • Trust in political institutions
  • National institutions and visa barriers  

Empirical base of research

Empirical data for the project were collected from state statistical databases, surveys conducted by Russian and international entities, as well as data of various research organizations. In particular, data of the World Values Survey and the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (conducted by EBRD) were heavily used. Other data sources were the NRU HSE’s Monitoring of the Quality of University Admission, and new data bases on visa regimes.

Research results

Main results of the completed studies are as follows.

  1. The impact of various types of capacity for self-organization for the quality of municipal governance and social welfare in Russia cities was analyzed.  
  2. Opportunities, prerequisites, and limitations of the provision of local public goods by local communities were investigated.
  3. The role of institutional quality as a “sorting factor” in the economic payoff to land ownership by Russian firms has been established theoretically and empirically.
  4. Joint impact of the quality of institutions in Russian regions and applicants’ talent as factors affecting the choice of fields of study was analyzed and quantified.
  5. Various data sources were used to analyze and empirically confirm the impact ща historical events on norms and values of modern societies.
  6. Mechanisms of history’s relevance for modern societies and political processes, including general and political trust and state of democracy, were identified.
  7. Opposite impact of particular institutions and social capital on visa regimes for international travel has been proven theoretically and empirically.

The implemented projects contribute to better understanding of the interplay between institutions, culture, and development and as such provide valuable theoretical and empirical insight into institutional change and its significance for economy and society. The projects also have significant impact for policy.  

Implementation of results

Project materials have been published or are being prepared for publication in academic journals, and were presented at various seminars and Russian and international conferences.

Areas of application

Findings of the above studies are of theoretical and practical significance for the understanding of factors and mechanisms of modernization and development, institutional change, international migration, historic roots of cultural norms and values, market reforms, higher education reform, urban and municipal governance, and community self-organization. Project results can also be used in teaching a number of courses at economics and sociology departments, and could inform expert opinions in the above areas.


Dower P., Egor M., Leonid P., Pyle W. Costs and Benefits of Land Ownership: The Case of Russian Firms / Высшая школа экономики. Series EC "Economics". 2015. No. WP BRP 107/EC/2015. 
Gracheva K., Polishchuk L., Schoors K., Yarkin A. Institutions and Visa Regimes / National research university Higher School of economics. Series WP BRP "Basic research program". 2015. No. 114.