Seminar Series

What Divides Us?


Nathan Nunn


University of British Columbia (UBC)

Time & Place

Tue, 22 Nov 2022 16:00:00 NZDT in Delivered via web stream to Rehua 226 (Te Moana nui a Kiwa)


Description of the talk
Now, more so than ever, there is disagreement in the world. These disagreements are not only between members of different societies but also among members of the same society. They are about fundamental issues, such as what is right and wrong, how we should treat others and what is just and fair.

In this talk, Professor Nunn will explore the roots of these differences. He will discuss the theory and evidence behind the evolution of the divergence in values and beliefs within societies. The aim is to help provide a deeper understanding of the historical roots of divergent views both across and within countries, particularly as they relate to issues of morality, religion, politics, and government.

About Professor Nathan Nunn
Nathan Nunn is a Professor of Economics at University of British Columbia [UBC]. Professor Nunn’s primary research interests are in political economy, economic history, economic development, cultural economics, and international trade. He is an NBER Faculty Research Fellow, a Research Fellow at BREAD and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) in the Boundaries, Membership & Belonging program. He is currently an editor at the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

One stream of Professor Nunn’s research focuses on the historical and dynamic process of economic development. In particular, he has studied the factors that shape differences in the evolution of institutions and cultures across societies. He has published research that studies the historical process of a wide range of factors that are crucial for economic development, including distrust, gender norms, religiosity, norms of rule-following, conflict, immigration, state formation, and support for democracy.

Another stream of Professor Nunn’s research examines economic development in a contemporary context. He has published research examining the effects of Fair-Trade certification, CIA interventions during the Cold War, foreign aid, school construction, and trade policy. He is particularly interested in the importance of the local context (e.g., social structures, traditions, and cultures) for the effectiveness of development policy and in understanding how policy can be optimally designed given the local environment. Specifically, he has studied the relationship between marriage customs and female education, generalized trust and political turnover, the organization of the extended family (lineage) and conflict, and traditional local political systems and support for democracy.

Professor Nunn’s current research interests lie in better understanding the importance of local culture and context for economic policies, particularly in developing countries.

Professor Nunn publishes frequently in the very top journals in Economics, including the AER, Review of Economic Studies, Econometrica, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Development Economics and Quarterly Journal of Economics. He has over 18k citations in Google Scholar. In 2014 he was named as one of the 25 economists under 45 who “are shaping the way we think about the global economy” by the IMF Finance & Development journal.

Professor Nunn earned a BA in economics from Simon Fraser University in 1998 and then a MA and PhD in economics from the University of Toronto in 2000 and 2005, respectively. After his graduation, Nunn worked as an assistant professor at UBC before moving to Harvard University in 2007. There, he was promoted to the Paul Sack Associate Professorship in Political Economy in 2011, to full professor in 2012, and to Frederic E. Abbe Professor of Economics in 2016. He returned to UBC in 2022 as a Professor of Economics.  Professor Nunn is a frequent keynote speaker in conferences around the globe and delivered the 2022 AEA Distinguished Lecture.

About The Condliffe Memorial Lecture
The Condliffe Memorial Lecture was instituted in 2005 to honour John Bell Condliffe, who became the first Professor of Economics at Canterbury University College in 1921.

The lecture series brings leading economists to Canterbury to provide a public lecture highlighting their recent work and its relevance to the broader business and policy community. The Condliffe Memorial Lecture is hosted by the Department of Economics and Finance and the UC Business School.

For more information about the lecture series, including the past speakers, please see