Channeling human resources into the right occupations has historically been a key to
economic prosperity. Occupational choices are not only driven by the material rewards
associated with the various occupations, but also by the esteem that they confer. We
propose a model of endogenous growth in which occupations carry a symbolic value that
makes them more or less attractive; the evolution of symbolic values is endogenous and
determined by purposive transmission of value systems within families. The model sheds
light on the interaction between cultural and economic development and identi es circum-
stances under which value systems matter for long-run growth. It shows the possibility
of culturally determined poverty traps and o¤ers a framework for thinking about the
transition from traditional to modern values.
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