How culture affects fitness: causal evidence at a Swiss language border
Cultural evolution theory implies that social learning can lead cultural groups to differ in the same environment and drive genetic selection. Yet, distinguishing the effect of culture from other confounds is a difficult empirical challenge. To meet this challenge, we exploit the Swiss language border, a cultural border that divides Switzerland without any institutional boundary. Using a regression discontinuity design, we estimate discontinuities in attitudes right at the cultural border. With the important exception of voting behaviors related to health insurance and reproductive rights, preliminary results do not reveal any significant behavioral discontinuities at the border. These results confirm the difficulty in identifying any cultural effect in the field and the importance of the environment in explaining behavioral variations. We are planning for further analyses on an additional dataset related to self-reported health behaviors.