nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2009‒05‒02
eight papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
University of Siena

  1. Civil War: A Review of 50 Years of Research By Christopher Blattman; Edward Miguel
  2. Can economics contribute to moral life? By Piet Keizer
  3. The economic value of virtue. By Fabio Mariani
  4. Opinion Dynamics and Communication Networks By Sven Banisch, Tanya Araujo and Jorge Louçã
  5. Electoral Accountability and Corruption: Evidence from the Audits of Local Governments By Claudio Ferraz; Frederico Finan
  6. Existence of Pure Strategies Nash Equilibria in Social Interaction Games with Dyadic Externalities By Le Breton, Michel; Weber, Shlomo
  7. Endogenous fertility, family policy and multiple equilibria By Andrea Mario Lavezzi - Nicola Meccheri
  8. Religion and fertility : the French connection. By Thomas Baudin

  1. By: Christopher Blattman; Edward Miguel
    Abstract: Most nations have experienced an internal armed conflict since 1960. The past decade has witnessed an explosion of research into the causes and consequences of civil wars, belatedly bringing the topic into the economics mainstream. This article critically reviews this interdisciplinary literature and charts productive paths forward. Formal theory has focused on a central puzzle: why do civil wars occur at all when, given the high costs of war, groups have every incentive to reach an agreement that avoids fighting? Explanations have focused on information asymmetries and the inability to sign binding contracts in the absence of the rule of law. Economic theory has made less progress, however, on the thornier (but equally important) problems of why armed groups form and cohere, and why individuals decide to fight. Likewise, the actual behavior of armed organizations and their leaders is poorly understood. On the empirical side, a vast cross-country econometric literature has aimed to identify the causes of civil war. While most work is plagued by econometric identification problems, low per capita incomes, slow economic growth and geographic conditions favoring insurgency are the factors most robustly linked to civil war. We argue that micro-level analysis and data are needed to truly decipher war’s causes, and understand the recruitment, organization, and conduct of armed groups. Recent advances in this area are highlighted. Finally, turning to the economic legacies of war, we frame the literature in terms of neoclassical economic growth theory. Emerging stylized facts include the ability of some economies to experience rapid macroeconomic recoveries, while certain human capital impacts appear more persistent. Yet econometric identification has not been adequately addressed, and there is little consensus on the most effective policies to avert conflicts or promote postwar recovery. The evidence is weakest where it is arguably most important: in understanding civil wars’ effects on institutions, technology, and social norms.
    Keywords: Civil war, violence, economic development, growth
    JEL: H56 O10 O40 C80
    Date: 2009–03
  2. By: Piet Keizer (Utrecht School of Economics)
    Abstract: This paper wants to answer the following question: can economics contribute to a morally decent life? Economics as a science originates from modern moral philosophy. This discipline analyses human nature and its consequences for the way in which social order is maintained. But as economics developed from the morally embedded economic analyses of Adam Smith to the morally neutral neoclassical economics, it became increasingly independent of its moral philosophical roots. The paper shows a way out of this moral indifference. Firstly, it discusses a more realistic economic approach, in which social and psychic processes play a significant role in the shaping of interpretations of the world. Secondly, it places humans in an ecological context. Ecology is about the interrelationship between entities and their environment. In our analysis ecology is about the relationship between humans and non-humans. We can, if morally necessary, consider particular non-humans, such as animals or plants, as independent identities, having value in their own right. In this way a multidisciplinary economic analysis appears to be a more efficient map in the hands of morally motivated people. A last problem analysed by the paper is the question: how do people get morally motivated? They do if they discover which virtues of persons and organisations lead to a maximum of utilities for all and when they place themselves in situations, where moral sentiments are aroused. Then people will listen to a voice inside themselves that says: you ought to develop these virtues.
    Keywords: ethics, economic methodology
    JEL: B41
    Date: 2008–04
  3. By: Fabio Mariani (Paris School of Economics - Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne)
    Abstract: We model virtue as an asset on the marriage market : since men value virginity in prospective mates, preserving their virtue increases girls' chances of getting a "good" husband, and therefore allows for upward social mobility. Consistent with some historical and anthropological evidence, we find that the diffusion (and the social value) of virginity, across societies and over time, can be determined, among others, by income inequality, gender differences, social stratification and overall economic development. This is a further example of how cultural and moral values can be affected by economic factors.
    Keywords: Mating, marriage, cultural values, social classes, inequality.
    JEL: D1 D31 J12 Z13
    Date: 2008–12
  4. By: Sven Banisch, Tanya Araujo and Jorge Louçã
    Abstract: This paper examines the interplay of opinion exchange dynamics and communication network formation. An opinion formation procedure is introduced which is based on an abstract representation of opinions as k-dimensional bitstrings. Individuals interact if the difference in the opinion strings is below a defined similarity threshold dI. Depending on dI, different behaviour of the population is observed: low values result in a state of highly fragmented opinions and higher values yield consensus. The first contribution of this research is to identify the values of parameters dI and k, such that the transition between fragmented opinions and homogeneity takes place. Then, we look at this transition from two perspectives: first by studying the group size distribution and second by analysing the communication network that is formed by the interactions that take place during the simulation. The emerging networks are classified by statistical means and we find that non-trivial social structures emerge from simple rules for individual communication.
    Date: 2009–03
  5. By: Claudio Ferraz; Frederico Finan
    Abstract: Political institutions can affect corruption. We use audit reports from an anti-corruption program in Brazil to construct new measures of political corruption in local governments and test whether electoral accountability affects the corruption practices of incumbent politicians. We find significantly less corruption in municipalities where mayors can get reelected. Mayors with re-election incentives misappropriate 27 percent fewer resources than mayors without re-election incentives. These effects are more pronounced among municipalities with less access to information and where the likelihood of judicial punishment is lower. Overall our findings suggest that electoral rules that enhance political accountability play a crucial role in constraining politician’s corrupt behavior.
    JEL: D72 D78 H41 O17
    Date: 2009–04
  6. By: Le Breton, Michel; Weber, Shlomo
    Abstract: In this note we introduce a general class of games where the payoff of every player are affected by her intrinsic taste for available strategic choices; intensity of her dyadic social interactions of with others in the peer group; and conformity effect. We show, that if the dyadic social influences are symmetric and the conformity effect is identical for all players, every game in our class admits a Nash equilibrium in pure strategies. Our proof relies on the fact that our game is potential (Rosenthal (1973), Monderer and Shapley (1996)). We also illustrate the universality of our result through a large spectrum of applications in economics, political science and sociology.
    Keywords: conformity effect; dyadic externalities; Nash equilibria; potential games; Social interactions
    JEL: C72 D85
    Date: 2009–04
  7. By: Andrea Mario Lavezzi - Nicola Meccheri
    Abstract: In this paper we adopt the probabilistic framework of Calv´o-Armengol and Jackson (2004) to study the effects of job contact networks on outof- unemployment transitions. In particular we evaluate the role of di erent network topologies vis-a-vis state-dependent probabilities of receiving information on vacancies, which we relate to different firms’recruitment strategies. We find that social connections produce sizable increases in upward mobility from unemployment and, in general,symmetric network topologies perform better than asymmetric ones. In addition, and most interestingly, these results strongly depends on the di erent hypotheses on the firms’ hiring process strategy. Furthermore, in scale-free networks the probability of transitions out of unemployment increases in the exponent of the power-law degree distribution, but its value is much lower than what obtainable in Poisson random networks.
    Keywords: job contact networks, complex networks, network symmetry,transitions out of unemployment, firms’ recruitment strategies.
    JEL: D83 J60 J64
    Date: 2009–04–20
  8. By: Thomas Baudin (Paris School of Economics - Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne)
    Abstract: The dataset "Enquête Mode de Vie des Français" is the first opportunity to measure the impact of religion and religiosity on individual fertility behaviors in France. Indeed, the French laws make it very difficult to collect data on the individual's religious variables. With Poisson regressions, I show that religiosity is the sole religious variable which significantly influences fertility. To have been raised in a religious family and to be a believer do not matter either. The estimated fertility of a woman assisting offices every week is 24% higher that the expected fertility of a woman who never assist to offices. Culture is not investigated only through the impact of religion on fertility. Indeed, I explore the influence of parental fertility on the respondent's own fertility and the transmission of "Family Ties" among generations. I find that these two channels are as important as religious variables to explain fertility. Among the conclusions of usual family, economics, I find that male income has a positive impact on female fertility whereas the female income has a negative impact. The women's education negatively influences fertility in the sense that the least educated women have more children than others.
    Keywords: Fertility, France, religion, religiosity.
    JEL: J11 J13 Z12
    Date: 2008–12

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