June 2021

IZA DP No. 14476: The Economic Incentives of Cultural Transmission: Spatial Evidence from Naming Patterns across France

published in: Economic Journal, 2022, 132 (642), 437 - 470

This paper studies how economic incentives influence cultural transmission, using a crucial expression of cultural identity: Child naming decisions. Our focus is on Arabic versus Non-Arabic names given in France over the 2003-2007 period. Our model of cultural transmission features three determinants: (i) vertical (parental) cultural transmission culture; (ii) horizontal (neighborhood) influence; (iii) information on the economic penalty associated with Arabic names. We find that economic incentives largely influence naming choices: Would the parental expectation on the economic penalty be zero, the annual number of babies born with an Arabic name would be more than 50 percent larger.