Coming Apart? Cultural Distances in the United States over Time
We analyze temporal trends in cultural distance between groups in the US defined by income, education, gender, race, and political ideology. We measure cultural distance between two groups as the ability to infer an individual's group based on his or her (i) media consumption, (ii) consumer behavior, (iii) time use, or (iv) social attitudes. Gender difference in time use decreased between 1965 and 1995 and has remained constant since. Differences in social attitudes by political ideology and income have increased over the last four decades. Whites and non-whites have converged somewhat on attitudes but have diverged in consumer behavior. For all other demographic divisions and cultural dimensions, cultural distance has been broadly constant over time.
We thank the University of Chicago Booth School of Business for financial support. Jihoon Sung provided excellent research assistance. We thank Jann Spiess and Clara Marquardt for their advice and guidance with the implementation of the machine learning algorithms. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.