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Individualism-Collectivism, Governance and Economic Development

Kyriacou, Andreas (2015): Individualism-Collectivism, Governance and Economic Development.


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While an individualist society prizes personal control, autonomy and individual accomplishments, a collectivist society puts a premium on loyalty and cohesion and imposes mutual obligations in the context of in-groups. It has been argued that individualism will promote economic development directly by sharpening individual incentives to invest, innovate and accumulate wealth. In this article, I argue that the individualist-collectivist dimension can also affect development through its impact on governance. The in-group favoritism inherent to collectivist societies is likely to engender corruption, nepotism and clientelism in the public sphere. In individualist societies, the relative weakness of in-group pressures and an emphasis on personal achievement and worth will contribute towards a more meritocratic and efficient public sector. My empirical evidence confirms the strong positive relationship between individualism and government quality. Moreover, I provide robust empirical evidence showing that the expected direct positive impact of individualism on economic development disappears when additionally controlling for governance, a finding which suggests that insofar as individualism affects development it does so because it promotes good governance.

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