Culture, Diffusion, and Economic Development (with Omer Ozak, Southern Methodist University)

This research explores the effects of culture on technological diffusion and economic development. It shows that culture’s direct effects on development and barrier effects to technological diffusion are, in general, observationally equivalent. In particular, using a large set of cultural measures, it establishes empirically that pairwise differences in contemporary development are associated with pairwise cultural differences relative to the technological frontier, only in cases where observational equivalence holds. Additionally, it establishes that differences in cultural traits that are correlated with genetic and linguistic distances are statistically and economically significantly correlated with differences in economic development. These results highlight the difficulty of disentangling the direct and barrier effects of culture, while lending credence to the idea that common ancestry generates persistence and plays a central role in economic development.

National Identity and Public Goods Provision

Nation building and creation of strong national identity is believed to have a positive influence on economic and political outcomes of the country and is proposed as a remedy for alleviating the adverse effect of ethnic fractionalization. However, empirical investigations showing the positive effect of strong national identity are still largely absent. The purpose of this paper is to find out the relationship between national identity and public goods provision for a wide cross-section of countries. The paper proposes theories examining the interplay between national identity and public goods provision, then shows empirically that the most nationalistic countries “excel” in poor provision of public goods. It challenges the conventional wisdom on the role of national identity, suggesting that most of the cases it is used as a tool to divert the attention of citizens from most pressing issues such as provision of elementary public goods.

Version presented at the Euroacademia conference available at:



Harutyunyan, Ani. “Two state disputes and outside intervention: The case of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”, Armenian Journal of Economics, forthcoming