nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2009‒02‒22
seventeen papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
University of Siena

  1. The fragility of social capital By Antoci, Angelo; Sabatini, Fabio; Sodini, Mauro
  2. Group Inequality By Samuel Bowles; Glenn C. Loury; Rajiv Sethi
  3. Social Interactions and Spillovers: Incentives,Segregation and Topology By Antonio Cabrales; Antoni Calvó-Armengol; Yves Zenou
  4. Endogenous Social Preferences, Heterogeneity and Cooperation By Zarri, Luca
  5. Does social capital create trust? Evidence from a community of entrepreneurs By Sabatini, Fabio
  6. On the impact of trust on consumer willingness to purchase GM food : evidence from a European survey By Rousselière, D.; Rousselière, S.
  7. Being religious - A Question of Incentives? By Anja Klaubert
  8. A Critical review of economic analyses of religion By Vikas Kumar
  9. International Evidence on the Social Context of Well-Being By John F. Helliwell; Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh; Anthony Harris; Haifang Huang
  10. Revisiting the economy by taking into account the different dimensions of well-being By Becchetti, Leonardo
  11. The Determinants of Misreporting Weight and Height: The Role of Social Norms By Julian Messina; Chiara Strozzi; Jarkko Turunen
  12. The Economics of Participation and Time Spent in Physical Activity By Humphreys, Brad; Ruseski, Jane
  13. Volunteering, Income Support Programs and Disabled Persons By Campolieti , Michele; Gomez, Rafael; Gunderson, Morley
  14. Individuals' Voting Choice and Cooperation in Repeated Social Dilemma Games By Annamaria Nese; Patrizia Sbriglia
  15. Contracting Under Reciprocal Altruism By Shchetinin, Oleg
  16. Beyond the Welfare State: New Trends in Social Welfare Policies in Spain Implications for Nonprofit Organizations By Vidal, Isabel
  17. L'etica cattolica e lo spirito del capitalismo By Zamagni, Stefano

  1. By: Antoci, Angelo (Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit); Sabatini, Fabio (Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit); Sodini, Mauro (Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit)
    Abstract: This paper addresses two hot topics of the contemporary debate, social capital and economic growth. Our theoretical analysis sheds light on decisive but so far neglected issues: how does social capital accumulate over time? Which is the relationship between social capital, technical progress and economic growth in the long run? The analysis shows that the economy may be attracted by alternative steady states, depending on the initial social capital endowments and cultural exogenous parameters representing the relevance of social interaction and trust in well-being and production. When material consumption and relational goods are substitutable, the choice to devote more and more time to private activities may lead the economy to a "social poverty trap", where the cooling of human relations causes a progressive destruction of the entire stock of social capital. In this case, the relationship of social capital with technical progress is described by an inverted U-shaped curve. However, the possibility exists for the economy to follow a virtuous trajectory where the stock of social capital endogenously and unboundedly grows. Such result may follow from a range of particular conditions, under which the economy behaves as if there was no substitutability between relational activities and material consumption.
    Keywords: Social capital; Technical progress; Social sphere; Economic action; Well-being; Social poverty trap
    JEL: A13
    Date: 2009–01–13
  2. By: Samuel Bowles (Santa Fe Institute and University of Siena); Glenn C. Loury (Department of Economics, Brown University); Rajiv Sethi (Department of Economics, Barnard College, Columbia University and the Institute for Advanced Study)
    Abstract: This paper explores conditions under which inequality across social groups can emerge from initially group-egalitarian distributions and persist across generations despite equality of eco- nomic opportunity. These conditions arise from interactions among three factors: the extent of segregation in social networks, the strength of interpersonal spillovers in human capital accumu- lation, and the responsiveness of relative wages to the skill composition in production. Social segregation is critical in generating these results: group inequality cannot emerge or persist un- der conditions of equal opportunity unless segregation su¢ ciently great. We also show that if an initially disadvantaged group is su¢ ciently small, integration above a threshold level can induce both groups to invest more in human capital, while the opposite holds if the disadvantaged group is large.
    Keywords: segregation, networks, group inequality, human capital
    JEL: D31 Z13 J71
    Date: 2009–02
  3. By: Antonio Cabrales; Antoni Calvó-Armengol; Yves Zenou
    Abstract: The aim of this paper is to understand the interactions between productive effort and the creation of synergies that are the sources of technological collaboration agreements, agglomeration, and social interactions. We model this interaction in a way that allows us to characterize how agents devote resources to both activities. This permits a full-edged equilibrium/welfare analysis of network formation with endogenous productive efforts, to derive unambiguous comparative statics results and to analyze community sorting by individual traits. In spite of its parsimony the model retains enough richness to replicate a broad range of empirical regularities displayed by social and economic networks, and to relate them to individual and social welfare. Key words: random network, spillovers, network formation, network topology.
    Date: 2009–02
  4. By: Zarri, Luca (Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit)
    Abstract: We set up an analytical framework focusing on the problem of interaction over time when economic agents are characterized by various types of distributional social preferences. We develop an evolutionary approach in which individual preferences are endogenous and account for the evolution of cooperation when all the players are initially entirely selfish. In particular, within motivationally heterogeneous agents embedded in a social network, we adopt a variant of the indirect evolutionary approach, where material payoffs play a critical role, and assume that a coevolutionary process occurs in which subjective preferences gradually evolve due to a key mechanism involving behavioral choices, relational intensity and degree of social openness. The simulations we carried out led to strongly consistent results with regard to the evolution of player types, the dynamics of material payoffs, the creation of significant interpersonal relationships among agents and the frequency of cooperation. In the long run, cooperation turns out to be the strategic choice that obtains the best performances, in terms of material payoffs, and "nice guys", far from finishing last, succeed in coming out ahead.
    Keywords: Behavioral Economics; Cooperation; Prisoner's Dilemma; Social Evolution; Heterogeneous Social Preferences; Indirect Evolutionary Approach
    JEL: B41 C73 D74 Z13
    Date: 2008–06–24
  5. By: Sabatini, Fabio (Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit)
    Abstract: Which kind of social capital fosters the diffusion of development-oriented trust? This paper carries out an empirical investigation into the causal relationships connecting four types of social capital (i.e. bonding, bridging, linking, and corporate), and different forms of trust (knowledge-based trust, social trust, trust towards public services and political institutions), in a community of entrepreneurs located in the Italian industrial district of the Tuscia. Our results suggest that the main factors fostering the diffusion of social trust among entrepreneurs are the perception that the local community is a safe place, and the establishment of corporate ties through professional associations. Trust in people is positively and significantly correlated also to higher levels of satisfaction and confidence in public services. Participation in voluntary organizations does not appear to increase trust in people. Rather, we find evidence of the other way round: interpersonal trust seems to encourage civic engagement.
    Keywords: Trust; Social capital; Safety; Professional associations; Entrepreneurship; Corporate ties; Group and Interpersonal Processes; Social Perception and Cognition
    JEL: A13 J24 O15 Z13
    Date: 2009–01–12
  6. By: Rousselière, D.; Rousselière, S.
    Abstract: Many researches try to explain consumer’s acceptance and opposition to GMO with focus on social factors. With a causal or an associationist theoretical model, different authors put forward the notion of trust as determining to define the position of individuals. Because as in the present case we could fear the simultaneity of decisions (trust, risk perceptions and acceptability), we have to take into account this endogeneity risk. With data from a European Survey (Eurobarometer 64.3 2005), multivariate probit was used to specify the importance of trust in the various organizations involved in the public debate on the acceptance of genetically modified foods on behalf of the “ordinary citizens”. We discuss this portrait of European citizens that shows them to be increasingly optimistic about biotechnology, while being divided on this question.
    JEL: C35 D12 L66
    Date: 2009
  7. By: Anja Klaubert (Institute of Economics, University of Lüneburg)
    Abstract: Studies of the relationship between religion and economics can be divided into three major lines of research: behavioural economics of religion (microeconomic approach), macroeconomic consequences of religion and religious explanations of economic phenomena. Except for the third line strong evidence has been found on the microeconomic level of individuals and households that economic behaviour and outcome correlate with religion. Furthermore the role of religion on the macroeconomic level, e.g. the impact on economic growth, has been analyzed, too. However, only a few models integrating these two levels exist. In order to exemplify such an integrated model, the first step of the analysis has to be the examination of the decisions taken on the microeconomic level. For this purpose this paper focuses on rational incentives to be religious and to take part in religious activities without taking into account the benefits derived from religious believes itself.
    Keywords: religion, incentives, individual religiosity
    JEL: A1 B4 Z12
    Date: 2009–02
  8. By: Vikas Kumar (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research)
    Abstract: Recent years have seen increasing interest in economic analyses of religion. We carry out a critical review of Economics of Religion (EoR) in this review essay. We find that on the one hand EoR has made a significant contribution to enhance our understanding of secular trappings of religion and to break the stranglehold of non-rational approach to religion. On the other it has failed systematically to address the core of religion, namely, belief in its purportedly supernatural basis. Furthermore the methodological foundations of EoR are far from settled. We identify the shortcomings of the literature and suggest remedial measures, wherever possible.
    Keywords: Church, Credence Goods, Economic Methodology, Inscrutable Markets, Religion
    JEL: A1 B2 B4 B5 Z12
    Date: 2008–11
  9. By: John F. Helliwell; Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh; Anthony Harris; Haifang Huang
    Abstract: This paper uses the first three waves of the Gallup World Poll to investigate differences across countries, cultures and regions in the factors linked to life satisfaction, paying special attention to the social context. Our principal findings are: First, using the larger pooled sample, we find that answers to the satisfaction with life and Cantril ladder questions provide consistent views of what constitutes a good life, with an average of the two measures providing a clearer picture than either measure on its own. Second, we find strong evidence for the importance of both income and social context variables in explaining within-country and international differences in well-being. For most specifications tested, the combined effects of a few measures of the social and institutional context are as large as those of income in explaining both international and intra-national differences in life satisfaction. Third, the very significant influences of both income and social factors permit the calculation of compensating differentials for social factors. We find very large income-equivalent values for key measures of the social context. Fourth, the international similarity of the estimated equations suggests that the large international differences in average life evaluations are not due to different approaches to the meaning of a good life, but to differing social, institutional, and economic life circumstances.
    JEL: D6 I3 J1 O0 O10 P51 P52
    Date: 2009–02
  10. By: Becchetti, Leonardo (Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit)
    Abstract: In standard economic models benevolent governments are the unique actors in charge to tackle the problem of reconciling individual with social wellbeing in presence of negative externalities and insufficient provision of public goods. Some promising practices of grassroot economics suggest however that, even a minoritarian share of concerned individuals and socially responsible corporations which internalise externalities, significantly enhance the opportunities of promoting "sustainable happiness" harmonising creation of economic, social and environmental value.
    Keywords: well-being; sustainable happiness; role; ethical and solidarity initiatives
    JEL: A13
    Date: 2009–01–29
  11. By: Julian Messina; Chiara Strozzi; Jarkko Turunen
    Abstract: We study differences in the adjustment of aggregate real wages in the manufacturing sector over the business cycle across OECD countries, combining results from different data and dynamic methods. Summary measures of cyclicality show genuine cross-country heterogeneity even after controlling for the impact of data and methods. We find that more open economies and countries with stronger unions tend to have less pro-cyclical (or more counter-cyclical) wages. We also find a positive correlation between the cyclicality of real wages and employment, suggesting that policy complementarities may influence the adjustment of both quantities and prices in the labour market.
    Date: 2009–01
  12. By: Humphreys, Brad (University of Alberta, Department of Economics); Ruseski, Jane (University of Alberta, Department of Economics)
    Abstract: This paper examines the economics of participation in physical activity by developing a consumer choice model of participation and estimating it using data drawn from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). Both emphasize that individuals face two distinct decisions: (1) should I participate; and (2) how much time should I spend participating? The results indicate that economic factors like income and opportunity cost of time are important determinants of physical activity and that physical activity is a normal good. Individual characteristics also play an important role in determining the amount of time spent in physical activity. Participation and time spent decline with age. Females, married people, households with children, blacks and hispanics all spend less time engaged in physical activity than males, single people, childless households and whites. Public policy interventions aimed at improving physical activity of Americans targeted to specific sub-populations are likely to be more effective than broad-based policies.
    Keywords: time allocation; physical activity; sport participation
    JEL: I12 I18 J22 L83
    Date: 2009–02–01
  13. By: Campolieti , Michele; Gomez, Rafael; Gunderson, Morley
    Abstract: We study the propensity of disabled persons to engage in volunteer activity with the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) -- a unique Canadian dataset which provides extensive information on disabled persons as well as volunteering behaviour. Our principal focus is on the effects of various income support programs on disabled person’s participation in volunteer activities. We find that certain income support programs (e.g., workers’ compensation) are associated with decreases in the probability of volunteering while others (e.g., Pension Plans) are associated with increases in the propensity to volunteer. The reason is that not all income support programs are identical with respect to their implications for unpaid work. There are some – like workers compensation – that embody strong disincentives to volunteering while others like public Pensions that explicitly encourage unpaid work. Our conclusion is that program characteristics can significantly affect volunteering. This conclusion is further supported when we look at other income support programs that embody ambiguous or no incentive effects. As one would anticipate, these ‘incentive neutral’ programs have no significant impact on volunteering. The relevance of these results to both theories of volunteerism and public policy is discussed.
    Keywords: Disability, Income Support Programs, Incentive Effects, Volunteer Activity
    JEL: J14 J48
    Date: 2009–02–16
  14. By: Annamaria Nese; Patrizia Sbriglia
    Abstract: In this paper we explore the relationship between the individual’s preference for cooperation and the establishment of cooperative norms. Our aim is to provide an experimental test of the evolutionary hypothesis (see Carpenter, 2004, Fehr and Gachter 2002; Gintis 2000; Boyd, Bowles, Gintis and Richerson 2003; Bowles and Gintis 2004), according to which individuals are prepared to punish defectors in experimental social dilemma games because they want to enforce a social (“altruistic”) norm which may conduce to increasing their future payoffs, as in the case of sanctions against free riding behaviour. According to this line of research , the high levels of cooperation we observe in our societies can, therefore, be strictly related to the establishment of social norms which are able to enforce and maintain cooperation in the long run. We study the results of two experiments in which the individuals decided both whether to participate in a common project and the institutional rule according to which the profits of the project had to be shared among each of the participants in the group. They could choose between 1) a regime where gains were shared equally, regardless of individuals’ contributions and without sanctions and rewards (System A); 2) a regime where individuals were paid according to their marginal contribution, but the profits of the investments were lower than in the other contexts (System B); finally 3) a regime in which gains were shared equally (as in System A), but individuals were allowed to punish (and\or reward) free riding (cooperative) behaviours as in Sefton, Shupp and Walker (2007). Before the experiments took place, our subjects were required to fill a questionnaire composed of four sections, where their attitude to cooperate and their opinions on civic values and free riding behaviours were thoroughly explored. We then monitored the behaviour of potential free riders and cooperators in the game and their institutional choices. Our results partly contradict the evolutionary hypothesis in as much as System A and B received the largest shares of votes in almost all rounds and they were voted by free riders and cooperators alike. Thus, most individuals do not like sanctions (incentives) against defectors and free riders (cooperators), and their institutional preferences do not seem to be related to their willingness to cooperate. The inspection of individual data, however, reveals some interesting points. In fact, we can assert that System C was mostly chosen by cooperative individuals in response to observed free riding behaviour. Furthermore, when a cooperative individual chose C, she would tend to punish free riders and reward cooperators. Our conclusion is that, as far as the institutional choices are concerned, beside the profit motivations underlined in the evolutionary hypothesis, the ethical and cultural unobserved individual preferences play an important role. There is a number of individuals (limited in our experiments, ranging between 15 and 30 per cent of the entire population) who see cooperation as the “right” thing to do, and therefore are prepared to implement institutional rules that may favour this collective outcome. Most people in our experiments did not share these same values.
    Keywords: public good games, experiments, voting choices
    JEL: C90 C91
    Date: 2009–02
  15. By: Shchetinin, Oleg
    Abstract: I develop a model of contracting under reciprocal altruism accounting for some evidence which is paradoxical from the point of view of neoclassical models with selfish actors. My model predicts the crowding-out effect observed in the Trust Game with the possibility of a fine; for the Control Game the model predicts that an equilibrium can exhibit "no effect of control", "hidden cost of control", or "positive effect of control", depending on the characteristics of the actors, as observed in the lab. This suggests that reciprocal altruism modeling could be fruitful more generally in applications of contract theory.
    Keywords: Reciprocal Altruism; Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation; Behavioral Economics; Signaling; Contract Theory.
    JEL: M54 D82 C72
    Date: 2009–02–16
  16. By: Vidal, Isabel (Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit)
    Abstract: Organizations can be categorized according to the nature of their owners, as either public or private organizations. Among private organizations, there is a subset of "other" organizations that are heterogeneous and have different legal structures, with diverse objectives. In Spain, these "other organizations" are labeled the Third Sector and/or Social Economy. There are two basic foundations for these "other" private organizations. Both arise when clusters of people create population centers. As a result, neither appears without the other; rather, they emerge simultaneously, and they are both extraordinarily important for social cohesion and sustainable development. The concepts in question are mutual aid and third-party aid.
    Keywords: Welfare State; Nonprofit Organizations; mutual aid
    JEL: A13
    Date: 2008–09–09
  17. By: Zamagni, Stefano (Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit)
    Abstract: E' noto che la moralita', in quanto componente essenziale dell'infrastrutturazione istituzionale di una societa', se da un lato pone vincoli (formali e informali) all'agire umano, dall'altro lato sprigiona opportunita', spesso rilevanti, di azione. Invero, attraverso la moralita', e piu' in generale la cultura, l'uomo non ha bisogno di trasformarsi in una nuova specie per adattarsi all'ambiente che lui stesso ha contribuito a modificare. Questo e' vero anche "e forse soprattutto" per l'agire economico, che e' tipicamente un agire vincolato. La struttura originaria dell'azione economica, infatti, prevede sempre un qualche fine che si desidera conseguire secondo certe modalita' - nel rispetto di determinati vincoli. Due sono le categorie di vincoli: tecnico-naturali, gli uni (ad esempio, per produrre un certo bene e' necessario sia conoscere la tecnologia di produzione sia disporre degli input richiesti); morali, gli altri (quelli, ad esempio, che statuiscono che non e' lecito sfruttare i propri collaboratori pur di ottenere risultati migliori, oppure che non e' consentito tradire la fiducia altrui per trarne vantaggi personali). Ora, mentre e' alle scienze naturali che viene affidato il compito di determinare il primo tipo di vincoli, e' all'etica che viene attribuito il ruolo di fissare i vincoli di natura morale. Chiaramente, sistemi etici diversi - quali ad esempio il deontologismo kantiano, il contrattualismo hobbesiano, l'utilitarismo benthamiano, l'etica delle virtu' di impianto aristotelico - condurranno a vincoli morali diversi; il che - a sua volta - portera' ad esiti economici anche molto diversi. Si noti pero' l'asimmetria profonda: mentre i vincoli tecniconaturali tendono ad uniformarsi pur tra culture e ambienti istituzionali diversi - cio' che spiega la relativa facilita' con la quale il sapere tecnico-scientifico trasmigra da un luogo all'altro - i vincoli morali dipendono o, quantomeno, risentono della particolare matrice culturale prevalente in un dato ambiente e in una data epoca storica.
    Keywords: etica cattolica; spirito del capitalismo; mercato civile
    JEL: A13
    Date: 2008–02–09

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