nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2008‒06‒07
nine papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
University of Siena

  1. Mind the Gap! Social Capital, East and West By Jan Fidrmuc; Klarita Gerxhani
  2. How change agents and social capital influence the adoption of innovations among small farmers: Evidence from social networks in rural Bolivia By Monge, Mario; Hartwich, Frank; Halgin, Daniel
  3. Crime and Ethnicity in London By Patacchini, Eleonora; Zenou, Yves
  4. Monitoring and norms in sickness insurance: empirical evidence from a natural experiment By Hesselius, Patrik; Johansson, Per; Vikström, Johan
  5. The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes By Dohmen, Thomas J; Falk, Armin; Huffman, David; Sunde, Uwe
  6. Moral Sentiments and Material Interests behind Altruistic Third-Party Punishment By Stefania Ottone; Ferruccio Ponzano; Luca Zarri
  7. Bayesian Learning in Social Networks By Daron Acemoglu; Munther A. Dahleh; Ilan Lobel; Asuman Ozdaglar
  8. Rural innovation systems and networks: Findings from a study of Ethiopian smallholders By Spielman, David J.; Davis, Kristin E.; Negash, Martha; Ayele, Gezahegn
  9. Truth and trust in communication - Experiments on the effect of a competitive context By Rode, Julian

  1. By: Jan Fidrmuc; Klarita Gerxhani
    Abstract: Recent Eurobarometer survey data are used to document and explain the stock of social capital in 28 European countries. Social capital in Central and Eastern Europe – measured by civic participation and access to social networks – lags behind that in Western European countries. Using regression analysis of determinants of individual stock of social capital, we find that this gap persists when we account for individual characteristics and endowments of respondents but disappears completely after we control for aggregate measures of economic development and quality of institutions. Informal institutions such as prevalence of corruption in post-communist countries appear particularly important. With the enlargement of the European Union, the gap in social capital should gradually disappear as the new member states catch up (economically and institutionally) with the old ones.
    Keywords: social capital, institutions, capitalism, transition
    JEL: O17 O57 P37 Z13
    Date: 2007–06–01
  2. By: Monge, Mario; Hartwich, Frank; Halgin, Daniel
    Abstract: "This paper presents results from a study that identified patterns of social interaction among small farmers in three agricultural subsectors in Bolivia—fish culture, peanut production, and quinoa production—and analyzed how social interaction influences farmers' behavior toward the adoption of pro-poor innovations. Twelve microregions were identified, four in each subsector, setting the terrain for an analysis of parts of social networks that deal with the diffusion of specific sets of innovations. Three hundred sixty farmers involved in theses networks as well as 60 change agents and other actors promoting directly or indirectly the diffusion of innovations were interviewed about the interactions they maintain with other agents in the network and the sociodemographic characteristics that influence their adoption behavior. The information derived from this data collection was used to test a wide range of hypotheses on the impact that the embeddedness of farmers in social networks has on the intensity with which they adopt innovations. Evidence provided by the study suggests that persuasion, social influence, and competition are significant influences in the decisions of farmers in poor rural regions in Bolivia to adopt innovations. The results of this study are meant to attract the attention of policymakers and practitioners who are interested in the design and implementation of projects and programs fostering agricultural innovation and who may want to take into account the effects of social interaction and social capital. Meanwhile, scholars of the diffusion of innovations may find evidence to further embrace the complexity and interdependence of social interactions in their models and approaches." from Author's Abstract
    Keywords: Social networks, Agricultural innovation, Change agent, Social capital,
    Date: 2008
  3. By: Patacchini, Eleonora; Zenou, Yves
    Abstract: This paper studies the relationship between a community's ethnic population density and its crime rate. We compare the spatial distribution of crime and the black population across the 32 London boroughs. Once endogeneity and sorting issues are taken into account, we find that the higher is the density of the ethnic population in a given borough, the higher is the crime rate. This effect is still positive but lower for neighbouring boroughs and ceases to exist beyond a 40 minute driving distance. Social interactions between individuals of the same ethnic group are the most likely explanation for this positive relationship.
    Keywords: Crime; Ethnic minorities; Panel data; Social interactions; Spatial correlation
    JEL: C21 K42 R12
    Date: 2008–05
  4. By: Hesselius, Patrik (Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation); Johansson, Per (IFAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation); Vikström, Johan (IFAU- Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation)
    Abstract: We test if social work norms are important for work absence due to self-perceived sickness. To this end, we use a randomized social experiment designed to estimate the effect of monitoring on work absence. The treated were exposed to less monitoring of their eligibility to use sickness insurance, which increased their non-monitored work absence. Based on a difference in differences analysis, we find that the not directly treated also increased their absence as a result of the experiment. By using an instrumental variables estimator, we find significant endogenous social interaction effects. A 10 per cent exogenous shock in work absence would lead to an immediate 5.7 per cent decrease in the hazard out of sickness absence: the long-run effect is calculated as a 13.3 per cent decrease in the corresponding hazard.
    Keywords: Work norms; social insurance; social interactions; sickness absence
    JEL: C14 C23 C41 J22 Z13
    Date: 2008–05–16
  5. By: Dohmen, Thomas J; Falk, Armin; Huffman, David; Sunde, Uwe
    Abstract: Recent theoretical contributions depart from the usual practice of treating individual attitude endowments as a black box, by assuming that these are shaped by the attitudes of parents and other role models. Attitudes include fundamental preferences such as risk preference, and crucial beliefs about the world, such as trust. This paper provides evidence on the three main mechanisms for attitude transmission highlighted in the theoretical literature: (1) transmission of attitudes from parents to children; (2) positive assortative mating of parents, which tends to reinforce the impact of parents on the child; (3) an impact of prevailing attitudes in the local environment. Investigating these mechanisms is important because they are crucial assumptions underlying a large literature. It also sheds light on the basic question of where individual attitude endowments come from, and the factors that determine these drivers of economic behaviour. The findings are supportive of attitude transmission models, and indicate that all three mechanisms play a role in shaping economically relevant attitudes.
    Keywords: Assortative Mating; Cultural Economics; Family Economics; Intergenerational Transmission; Risk Preferences; Social Interactions; SOEP; Trust
    JEL: D1 D8 J12 J13 J62 Z13
    Date: 2008–05
  6. By: Stefania Ottone (EconomEtica and University of Eastern Piedmont; EconomEtica and University of Eastern Piedmont); Ferruccio Ponzano (University of Eastern Piedmont; University of Eastern Piedmont); Luca Zarri (Università di Verona; Dipartimento di Scienze economiche (Università di Verona))
    Abstract: Social norms are ubiquitous in human life. Their role is essential in allowing cooperation to prevail, despite the presence of incentives to free ride. As far as norm enforcement devices are concerned, it would be impossible to have widespread social norms if second parties only enforced them. However, both the quantitative relevance and the motivations underlying altruistic punishment on the part of ‘unaffected’ third parties are still largely unexplored. This paper contributes to shed light on the issue, by means of an experimental design consisting of three treatments: a Dictator Game Treatment, a Third-Party Punishment Game Treatment (Fehr and Fischbacher, 2004) and a Metanorm Treatment, that is a variant of the Third-party Punishment Game where the Recipient can punish the third party. We find that third parties are willing to punish dictators (Fehr and Fischbacher, 2004; Ottone, 2008) and, in doing so, they are affected by ‘reference-dependent fairness’, rather than by the ‘egalitarian distribution norm’. By eliciting players’ normative expectations, it turns out that all of them expect a Dictator to transfer something – not half of the endowment. Consequently, the Observers’ levels of punishment are sensitive to their subjective sense of fairness. A positive relation between the level of punishment and the degree of negative subjective unfairness emerges. Subjective unfairness also affects Dictators’ behaviour: their actual transfers and their ideal transfer are not significantly different. Finally, we interestingly find that third parties are also sensitive to the receivers’ (credible) threat to punish them: as the Dictator’s transfer becomes lower and lower than the Observer’s ideal transfer, the Observer’s reaction is – other things being equal – significantly stronger in the Metanorm Treatment than in the Third-Party Punishment Game Treatment. Hence, despite their being to some extent genuinely nonstrategically motivated, also third parties – like second parties – are sensitive to the costs of punishing.
    Keywords: Third-Party Punishment; Moral Sentiments; Material Interests; Subjective Unfairness; Social Norms.
    JEL: C72 C9 D63 Z13
    Date: 2008–05
  7. By: Daron Acemoglu; Munther A. Dahleh; Ilan Lobel; Asuman Ozdaglar
    Abstract: We study the perfect Bayesian equilibrium of a model of learning over a general social network. Each individual receives a signal about the underlying state of the world, observes the past actions of a stochastically-generated neighborhood of individuals, and chooses one of two possible actions. The stochastic process generating the neighborhoods defines the network topology (social network). The special case where each individual observes all past actions has been widely studied in the literature. We characterize pure-strategy equilibria for arbitrary stochastic and deterministic social networks and characterize the conditions under which there will be asymptotic learning -- that is, the conditions under which, as the social network becomes large, individuals converge (in probability) to taking the right action. We show that when private beliefs are unbounded (meaning that the implied likelihood ratios are unbounded), there will be asymptotic learning as long as there is some minimal amount of "expansion in observations". Our main theorem shows that when the probability that each individual observes some other individual from the recent past converges to one as the social network becomes large, unbounded private beliefs are sufficient to ensure asymptotic learning. This theorem therefore establishes that, with unbounded private beliefs, there will be asymptotic learning an almost all reasonable social networks. We also show that for most network topologies, when private beliefs are bounded, there will not be asymptotic learning. In addition, in contrast to the special case where all past actions are observed, asymptotic learning is possible even with bounded beliefs in certain stochastic network topologies.
    JEL: C72 D83
    Date: 2008–05
  8. By: Spielman, David J.; Davis, Kristin E.; Negash, Martha; Ayele, Gezahegn
    Abstract: "Agriculture in Ethiopia is changing. New players, relationships, and policies are influencing how smallholders access and use information and knowledge. Although this growing complexity suggests opportunities for Ethiopian smallholders, too little is known about how these opportunities can be effectively leveraged to promote pro-poor processes of rural innovation. This paper examines Ethiopia's smallholder agricultural sector to provide qualitative insights into the interactions between smallholders and other actors in the agricultural sector and the contribution those interactions make to the smallholders' innovation processes. Case studies of smallholder innovation networks in 10 communities suggest that public sector extension and administration exert a strong influence over smallholders' access to knowledge and information relative to market or civil society actors. Given the priority the Ethiopian government has placed on improving rural welfare by increasing market access among smallholders, the findings of this study may suggest the need to further explore policies and programs that create more space for market and civil society actors to participate in smallholder innovation networks." from Author's Abstract
    Keywords: Agricultural development, Innovation, technology, Social networks, Social learning,
    Date: 2008
  9. By: Rode, Julian (Sonderforschungsbereich 504)
    Abstract: The paper employs laboratory experimentation to study the effect of competition on truth telling and trust in communication. A sequence of either competitive or cooperative interactions preceded an experimental communication game. In the game, informed advisors sent a recommendation to decision-makers who faced uncertainty about the consequences of their choice. While many advisors told the truth against their monetary self-interest, the propensity to tell the truth was unaffected by the contextual priming. In contrast, decision-makers trusted significantly less in a competitive context. The effect was strongest when they faced full uncertainty. The paper relates this result to psychological and neuro-economic findings on automatic information processing. The data of this study were largely in line with Subjective Equilibrium Analysis (Kalai and Lehrer, 1995).
    Date: 2008–04–10

This nep-soc issue is ©2008 by Fabio Sabatini. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, please include this notice.
General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.