Research Economics

The Obstacle to Integration in Europe Is not Culture

, by Claudio Todesco
In a study with Alberto Alesina and Francesco Trebbi, Guido Tabellini analyzes how the integration of Europe is not put at risk by the lack of homogeneity of the peoples in this region

European citizens are more similar to each other than they think they are. The critical issue for the future of the European political integration is thus not cultural diversity across EU members. This is one of the results highlighted by Is Europe an Optimal Political Area?, a paper by Alberto Alesina, Guido Tabellini, and Francesco Trebbi that was recently published in the Brookings Papers of Economic Activity.

The literature tell us that the integration of different countries emerges from the trade-off between the economic benefits of integration and the cost due to heterogeneity in preferences. "We try to evaluate this cost by looking at its evolution over time", Tabellini says. The authors analyzed data from the European Value Surveys between 1980 and 2008. They compared a number of stable cultural traits and values: appreciation of hard work or obedience, gender roles, sexual morality, religiosity, ideology, role of the State in the economy. "We found out that cultural heterogeneity among European countries is not relevant. Between-country differences in the EU are not larger than within-country differences. The between-states differences are about the same in Europe and in the US. The main obstacle to the process of European political integration may be another one. We think it could be nationalism which leads people to exaggerate differences between countries".

Our cultural traits are not so dissimilar. There are more remarkable differences in the institutions. The authors state that, despite decades of economic integration in Europe, the quality of public administrations and legal systems did not converge. "The divergence is largely driven by Southern Europe".

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