Friedrich M. Götz, Tobias Ebert, Samuel D. Gosling, Martin Obschonka, Jeff Potter, Peter Jason Rentfrow
Local housing market dynamics predict rapid shifts in cultural openness: A 9-year study across 199 cities.

American Psychologist, 2021: 76, issue 6, pp. 947-961
ISSN: 1935-990X

Accumulating evidence suggests that culture changes in response to shifting socioecological conditions; economic development is a particularly potent driver of such change. Previous research has shown that economic development can induce slow but steady cultural changes within large cultural entities (e.g., countries). Here we propose that economically driven culture change can occur rapidly, particularly in smaller cultural entities (e.g., cites). Drawing on work in cultural dynamics, urban economics, and geographical psychology, we hypothesize that changes in local housing prices-reflecting changing availability of local amenities-can induce rapid shifts in local cultures of Openness. We propose two mechanisms that might underlie such cultural shifts: selective migration (i.e., people selectively moving to cities that offer certain amenities) and social acculturation (i.e., people adapting to changing amenities in their city). Based on trait Openness scores of 1,946,752 U.S. residents, we track annual changes in local Openness across 199 cities for 9 years (2006-2014). We link these data to annual information on local housing markets, an established proxy for local amenities. To test interdependencies between the time series of local housing markets and Openness, we use Panel Vector Autoregression modeling. In line with our hypothesis, we find robust evidence that rising housing costs predict positive shifts in local Openness but not vice versa. Additional analyses leveraging participants' duration of residence in their city suggest that both selective migration and social acculturation contribute to shifts in local Openness. Our study offers a new window onto the rapid changes of cultures at local levels.