Abstract: We argue that a more individualist culture leads to more innovation and to higher growth because of the social status rewards associated with innovation in that culture. We use data on the frequency of particular genes associated with collectivist cultures, as well as a measure of distance in terms of frequencies of blood types, and historic prevalence of pathogens to instrument individualism scores. The relationship between individualism and innovation/growth remains strong even after controlling for institutions and other potentially confounding factors. We also provide evidence consistent with two-way causality between culture and institutions.