nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2009‒03‒14
ten papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
University of Siena

  1. The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa By Nathan Nunn; Leonard Wantchekon
  2. Assessing trust through social capital? A possible experimental answer. By Migheli, Matteo
  3. A New Proxy of Social Capital and the Economic Performance across the Italian Regions By Luca Andriani; Dimitrios Karyampas
  4. Trust and Trade By Oskar Nupia
  5. Community Characteristics and Demographic Development: Three Württemberg Communities, 1558 - 1914 By Ogilvie, S.; Küpker, M.; Maegraith, J.
  6. Volunteering and the State By Franz Hackl; Martin Halla; Gerald J. Pruckner
  7. Engineering Trust - Reciprocity in the Production of Reputation Information By Gary Bolton; Ben Greiner; Axel Ockenfels
  8. Group Selection: The quest for social preferences By Salomonsson, Marcus
  9. Social capital, local institutions, and cooperation between firms By M. Raimondi; A. Arrighetti
  10. Computational rationality and voluntary provision of public goods: an agent-based simulation model By M. Raimondi

  1. By: Nathan Nunn; Leonard Wantchekon
    Abstract: We investigate the historical origins of mistrust within Africa. Combining contemporary household survey data with historic data on slave shipments, we show that individuals whose ancestors were heavily raided during the slave trade today exhibit less trust in neighbors, relatives, and their local government. We confirm that the relationship is causal by using the historic distance from the coast of a respondent's ancestors as an instrument for the intensity of the slave trade, while controlling for the individual's current distance from the coast. We undertake a number of falsification tests, all of which suggest that the necessary exclusion restriction is satisfied. Exploiting variation among individuals who live in locations different from their ancestors, we show that most of the impact of the slave trade works through factors that are internal to the individual, such as cultural norms, beliefs, and values.
    JEL: N00 O1
    Date: 2009–03
  2. By: Migheli, Matteo
    Abstract: Trust is an important variable in economics, as several transactions are based on it; unfortunately it is difficult to measure. The recent economic literature on social capital shows a positive association between this concept and trust. As social capital is easier to measure than trust is, this paper analyzes the possibility of assessing trust measuring social capital using experimental economics. A basic trust game is played in three Western European countries with undergraduate students; a questionnaire measures their level of social capital, as time spent within social networks. This measure is stronger and more precise than the ones generally used. In particular this paper firstly measures social capital as the intensity of a membership to a voluntary organization, while the extant literature generally considers only the membership per se. Secondly the use of an experiment instead of a questionnaire allows for constructiong a measure of trust which is in principle continuous. Thirdly to play an experiment allows for observing the behaviour of the participants better than by the means of a survey. The results are supportive of the fact that trust can be assessed through social capital, although the presence of a strong geographical effect has to be accounted for.
    Keywords: generalized trust, social capital, gender effect
    JEL: C72 C93
    Date: 2009–02
  3. By: Luca Andriani; Dimitrios Karyampas (School of Economics, Mathematics & Statistics, Birkbeck)
    Abstract: In the last 20 years, social capital, has been evoked in several field of social science research and used to explain a vast range of phenomena: political participation, institution performance, corruption, economic success of countries and so on. Unfortunately, dealing with social capital at a scientific level presents, at least, three main problems. First social capital’s definition is still elusive, especially due to its multi-dimensional nature. Second, it is a particular form of capital related to a very high level of intangibility. Finally, because of lack of suitable data there is neither a universal measurement method, nor a single underlined indicator commonly accepted by the literature. These are some of the reasons for which social capital measures are considered as proxies. By using the density of workers within industrial districts, we have constructed an alternative proxy to those that already exist in the literature in order to empirically analyse the difference, in terms of economic performance, across the Italian regions. The methodology we have applied to derive the index is identical to that one used to construct the Putnam’s instrument. Empirical evidence shows that our measure does not affect macroeconomic indicators such as investment and income per capita. However, it significantly influences unemployment disparities, and the level of innovation.
    Date: 2009–01
  4. By: Oskar Nupia
    Abstract: This paper presents a model demonstrating how trust affects the volume of trade in a society. There are two ways in which this happens. First, at minimum, societies need a certain level of trust in order to observe trading activity. Second, once this minimum condition is satisfied, the probability of observing a larger volume of trade is high only if the level of trust is sufficiently high. Our results help explain empirical findings that demonstrate a positive relationship between trust and the volume of sales, or the value added of trade. The model also shows that institutions can compensate for low levels of trust—that is, societies with low levels of trust can achieve volumes of trade comparable to those of societies with high levels of trust by spending more resources on increasing the quality of the relevant institutions.
    Date: 2009–02–04
  5. By: Ogilvie, S.; Küpker, M.; Maegraith, J.
    Abstract: Demographic behaviour is influenced not just by attributes of individuals but also by characteristics of the communities in which those individuals live. A project on ‘Economy, Gender, and Social Capital in the German Demographic Transition’ is analyzing the longterm determinants of fertility by carrying out family reconstitutions of three Württemberg communities (Auingen, Ebhausen, and Wildberg) between c. 1558 and 1914. A related project on ‘Human Well-Being and the “Industrious Revolution”: Consumption, Gender and Social Capital in a German Developing Economy, 1600-1900’ is using marriage and death inventories to investigate how consumption interacted with production and demographic behaviour in two of these communities. This paper examines the historical, political, institutional, geographical, and economic attributes of the communities analyzed in these projects and discusses their potential effects. The aim is to generate testable hypotheses and relevant independent variables for subsequent econometric analyses of demographic behaviour.
    Keywords: economic history; demography; fertility; gender; social capital; institutions; politics; geography; occupational structure; Germany
    JEL: N0 N33 N43 N53 N63 N73 N93 J1 J13 O13 O15
    Date: 2009–03
  6. By: Franz Hackl; Martin Halla; Gerald J. Pruckner
    Abstract: This paper explores the capability of the state to affect the individual’s decision to work for free. For this purpose we combine individual-level data from the European and World Values Survey with macroeconomic and political variables for OECD member countries. Empirically we identify three channels for crowding out of voluntary labor. Firstly, an increase in public social expenditure decreases the probability that the individual will volunteer (fiscal crowding out). Secondly, a political consensus between individuals and the government also induces volunteers to reduce their unsalaried activities (consensual crowding out). And finally, the more a government supports democratization, the lower is the individual’s engagement (participatory crowding out). Religiosity and a more unequal income distribution in a country increase individuals’ willingness to volunteer.
    Keywords: Volunteering, voluntary labor supply, private provision of public goods, public social expenditure, political consensus, democratization
    JEL: H41 H44 H31 J22 I38 H11 D30 D64
    Date: 2009–02
  7. By: Gary Bolton; Ben Greiner; Axel Ockenfels
    Abstract: Reciprocal feedback distorts the production and content of reputation information, hampering trust and trade efficiency. Data from eBay and other sources combined with laboratory data provide a robust picture of how reciprocity can be guided by changes in the way feedback information flows through the system, leading to more accurate reputation information, more trust and more efficient trade.
    Keywords: market design, reputation, trust, reciprocity, eBay
    JEL: C73 C9 D02 L14
    Date: 2009–02–24
  8. By: Salomonsson, Marcus (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)
    Abstract: This paper surveys the literature on group selection. I describe the early contributions and the group selection controversy. I also describe the main approaches to group selection in the recent literature; fixation, assortative group formation, and reproductive externalities.
    Keywords: Altruism; spite; externalities; conformity; fixation; signalling
    JEL: C70 D62 D64
    Date: 2009–03–06
  9. By: M. Raimondi; A. Arrighetti
    Abstract: There are many different reasons behind cooperation between firms and many possible interpretations are assumed to be based on an assessment of endogenous benefits of collective action directly generated by taking part in a joint project. This paper attempts at verifying the interpretative capacity of models analysing the cooperation between firms using not only technological or organisational factors and rivalry between firms, but also some proxy variables of social capital, of experience accumulation in collective action and of institutional capacity for initiative. The specific aim of our work is hence that of providing an interpretation of Italian inter-province differentials in the propensity of inter-firm cooperation.
    Keywords: 35
    JEL: C21 D23 L14
    Date: 2009
  10. By: M. Raimondi
    Abstract: The issue of the cooperation among private agents in realising collective goods has always raised problems concerning the basic nature of individual behaviour as well as the more traditional economic problems. The Computational Economics literature on public goods provision can be useful to study the possibility of cooperation under alternative sets of assumptions concerning the nature of individual rationality and the kind of interactions between individuals. In this work I will use an agent-based simulation model to study the evolution of cooperation among private agents taking part in a collective project: a high number of agents, characterised by computational rationality, defined as the capacity to calculate and evaluate their own immediate payoffs perfectly and without errors, interact to producing a public good. The results show that when the agents’ behaviour is not influenced either by expectations of others’ behaviour or by social and relational characteristics, they opt to contribute to the public good to an almost socially optimal extent, even where there is no big difference between the rates of return on the private and the public investment.
    Keywords: Computational Economics; Agent-based models; Social Dilemmas; Collective Action; Public Goods
    JEL: C63 D64 D80 H41
    Date: 2009

This nep-soc issue is ©2009 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.
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