IDSS Presents: 'The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence from the Kuba Kingdom'


Nathan Nunn
Professor of Economics, Harvard University


Tuesday, May 19, 2015


12–1:30 p.m. PT


RAND Corporation
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA

About the Program

Kuba Bwoom mask

Brooklyn Museum collection, CC BY 3.0

Dr. Nunn's research examines the impact that institutions have on cultural norms. He studies variation in historical centralization arising from the creation of the Kuba Kingdom, located in central Africa, in the early 17th century by King Shyaam. The Kingdom, which was much more politically developed than the nearby independent villages and chieftaincies, featured an unwritten constitution, separation of political powers, a judicial system with courts and juries, a police force, a military, taxation, and significant public goods provision. Comparing descendants of the Kuba Kingdom with descendants of groups living just outside of the Kingdom, he finds that more centralized formal institutions are associated with weaker norms of rule-following a great propensity to cheat and disobey rules for material gain. This difference is not confounded by differences in geography or colonial experience.

About the Speaker

Nathan Nunn is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Professor Nunn was born in Canada, where he received his PhD from the University of Toronto in 2005. Professor Nunn’s primary research interests are in economic history, economic development, cultural economics, political economy and international trade. He is an NBER Faculty Research Fellow, a Research Fellow at BREAD, and a Faculty Associate at Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA). He is currently a co-editor of the Journal of Development Economics. Read more »

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