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Institutions and Culture: Historical Roots, Interaction, and Economic Outcomes

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

Object of Research

The thematic area of the reported project is the interplay, historical origins, and socio-economic outcomes of institutions and culture at the national, regional and local levels. Thematic scope of analysis included national and sub-national institutions, mechanism of their impact and relevance for economic development, interactions between institutions and other growth factors, historical roots of institutions and culture, as well as cultural processes and divides in multi-ethnic communities. Research of the “labor division” between government and citizens in the provision of public goods and services was continued. Implementation of integrated empirical studies at different levels of spatial hierarchy generated valuable synergies and produced robust empirical results.

The project incorporates a number of studies, which are thematically, methodologically and informationally coordinated with each other. The studies cover both general aspects of the interplay of institutions and culture in economic development, as well as specific topics and issues, such as the interplay of institutions and human capital, causes and consequences of cultural heterogeneity in multi-ethnic societies, self-organization of local communities, co-production of public goods and services, etc.

Goal of research

The main goals of the project were as follows:

  • Use various cases, data sources, and research strategies to reveal and investigate mechanism of the interplay between institutions and culture, their links with other factors and resources of economic development, and in particular with human capital;
  • Explore historical roots of institutions and culture, as well as the nature and impact of historically rooted cultural divides in the society;
  • Estimate economic payoffs to institutions and culture;  
  • Investigate prerequisites of self-organization in the society, and the division of labor between governments, communities, and private sector firms..

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

  • Institutional quality and the allocation of talent: transition economies, university rankings, and implications for growth
  • Institutions and human capital: complements or substitutes?
  • Private investments in security: evidence from Russian regions
  • Role of civic culture in collective management of Moscow apartment buildings
  • Culture and human capital: the impact of rural dwellings on health of the Russian population in the XIX-XXth centuries
  • Impact of ethnic heterogeneity on culture and institutions (the case of Estonia)
  • Social capital in teams (the case of national football teams)
  • Social attitudes to immigrants
  • Cultural distinctions of migrants to European nations (according to European Social Surveys)
  • Other studies (analysis of decentralized corruption; local self-governance; theory of co-production; critical junctures in market reforms)


The above research projects employed modern theoretical concepts and models of institutional economics and political economy, as well as various empirical research tools using econometric models.

Empirical base of research

Empirical data for the project were collected from various sources, including various surveys conducted by Russian and international entities, as well as government statistical data and various think tank and development agencies materials. Those included inter alia the European Social Survey, the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (conducted by EBRD), and Governance Matters database, international sports statistics, Russian rating agencies, and national censuses.

Research results

Main results and findings of the completed studies are as follows.

  1. New empirical evidence of the link between institutions and the allocation of talent in transition economies.
  2. Empirical analysis of the interaction between institutions and human capital in transition economies.
  3. Evidence of the impact of institutional quality on the link between government and private investments in safety and security.
  4. Empirical analysis of linkages between different stripes of social capital (using Moscow residential housing data).
  5. Historical evidence of the impact of culture on human capital.
  6. Evidence of the impact of political representation on trust in government and political institutions.
  7. Validation of measurement of social capital in national soccer teams.
  8. Analysis of economic and cultural factors affecting attitudes to migrants.
  9. Analysis of cultural differences between migrants and indigenous population in European countries.
  10. Evidence of “critical junctures” and institutional learning in shaping institutions and culture in post-communist countries.

The implemented projects contribute to better understanding of general patterns in the interplay between institutions and culture as development factors. Projects findings contribute to the institutional theories and have significant relevance 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, interplay of institutions and culture, historical roots of cultural norms and values, market reforms, corruption prevention, improvement of government performance at the national and regional levels, public safety and security, performance of sport teams, etc.

Project results can also be used in teaching a number of courses at economics and sociology departments, and could inform expert opinions and policy advice in the above areas.