How Does Farming Culture Shape Households’ Risk-taking Behavior?
Does the ancient farming culture shape the risk-taking behavior of households today? Using a dataset covering over 130,000 households from a Chinese national survey, our study examines the relationship between the culture of rice cultivation and the financial behavior of modern households. We find that households in regions with a higher rate of historical rice cultivation are more likely to invest in the financial market and buy lottery, but less likely to purchase insurance. We also find that the rice area has more households with risk preferences consistent with prospect theory expectations. To account for omitted variable bias, we use average regional rainfall and downstream distance to ancient irrigation systems as instrumental variables for rice cultivation, and our results remain robust. We find that the rice effect cannot be explained by regional economic development, traditional Confucian values, or ethnic diversity. To explore potential mechanisms, we find that households in rice regions are more likely to borrow money from friends and relatives and have interest waived, and historical commercial
development has also been influenced by the rice culture.