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En/ Policy/ Domestic Development Cooperation


【Domestic Program】“Just Do Your Job”: Obedience, Routine Tasks, and the Pattern of Specialization


Content introduction:

Time:Nov. 17, 2017 10:30-12:00 

Venue: Classroom 421, Teaching Building No.2
Host:Yong Wang、Xin Wang、Changhua Yu、Miaojie Yu
Speaker:Davin Chor(National University of Singapore)

We study the interplay between cultural attitudes and the economic environment, focusing on attitudes towards obedience in the workplace. We establish two key stylized facts. First, at the country level, an upward shift in workplace obedience over time is associated with more exporting in industries that feature a high routine task content (“Specialization Fact”). Second, at the individual level, the degree of “export-routineness” in the economic environment that respondents were exposed to in their formative years – but not in their adult years – shapes the pro-obedience attitudes that they carry with them into the workforce (“Obedience Fact”). Together, these two facts show that cultural attitudes on workplace obedience respond systematically to economic incentives, and that such a culture in turn shapes the subsequent pattern of industry specialization. We develop an overlapping generations model of human capital investment and cultural transmission, to understand how this aspect of culture and specialization patterns in the economy are jointly determined in the long run. In particular, the model demonstrates the possibility of an “obedience trap”: countries may specialize in routine sectors (e.g., basic manufacturing) that foster a culture of obedience, at the expense of the development of more non-routine production activities. 


Davin Chor is an Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, National University of Singapore. His research interests are in international trade, political economy and economic history. His work in international trade focuses on understanding how institutional and policy forces affect patterns of comparative advantage and multinational activity. He presently serves as an Associate Editor at the Journal of International Economics and at the Review of International Economics. He is also an Associate Director at the Global Production Networks Centre at the National University of Singapore (GPN@NUS). 
Davin completed his A.B. in Economics summa cum laude from Harvard University in 2000. He also holds an A.M. in Statistics (2000) and a Ph.D. in Economics (2007) from Harvard.