Anthropology Publications and Other Works

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Royal Society open science

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In the centuries since the enlightenment, the world has seen an increase in socioeconomic development, measured as increased life expectancy, education, economic development and democracy. While the co-occurrence of these features among nations is well documented, little is known about their origins or co-evolution. Here, we compare this growth of prosperity in nations to the historical record of cultural values in the twentieth century, derived from global survey data. We find that two cultural factors, secular-rationality and cosmopolitanism, predict future increases in GDP per capita, democratization and secondary education enrollment. The converse is not true, however, which indicates that secular- rationality and cosmopolitanism are among the preconditions for socioeconomic development to emerge.

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