nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2010‒04‒17
eighteen papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
University of Siena

  1. The Solaria Syndrome: Social Capital in a Growing Hyper-technological Economy By Angelo Antoci; Fabio Sabatini; Mauro Sodini
  2. The relationship between Stress, Strain and Social Capital By Martin Gächter; David A. Savage; Benno Torgler
  3. Caste and punishment: the legacy of caste culture in norm enforcement By Karla Hoff; Mayuresh Kshetramade; Ernst Fehr
  4. The Impact of Social Capital on Crime By I. Semih Akçomak; Bas ter Weel
  5. Neighbors and Co-Workers: The Importance of Residential Labor Market Networks By Judith K. Hellerstein; Melissa McInerney; David Neumark
  6. Job instability and family planning: insights from the Italian puzzle By Fabio Sabatini
  7. How novel is social capital: Three cases from the British history that reflect social capital By Akcomak, Semih; Stoneman, Paul
  8. The social economics of ethical consumption: Theoretical considerations and empirical evidence By Martha A. Starr
  9. Why Volunteer? Evidence on the Role of Altruism, Image, and Incentives By Jeffrey Carpenter; Caitlin Knowles Myers
  10. The social proclivity of social entrepreneurs: how social are they? By N. MORAY; R. STEVENS;
  11. Do Social Networks Prevent Bank Runs? By Garcia-Rosa, Alfonso; Kiss, Hubert Janos; Rodriguez-Lara, Ismael
  12. Sustainability and organizational design in informal groups, with some evidence from Kenyan Roscas By Anderson, Siwan; Baland, Jean-Marie; Moene, Karl O.
  13. Guilt from Promise-Breaking and Trust in Markets for Expert Services - Theory and Experiment By Adrian Beck; Rudolf Kerschbamer; Jianying Qiu; Matthias Sutter
  14. Centralizing Information in Networks By Jeanne Hagenbach
  15. Comparing the Effectiveness of Regulation and Pro-Social Emotions to Enhance Cooperation: Experimental Evidence from Fishing Communities in Colombia By Maria Claudia Lopez; James J. Murphy; John M. Spraggon; John K. Stranlund
  16. Identity, Inequality, and Happiness: Evidence from Urban China By Shiqing Jiang; Ming Lu; Hiroshi Sato
  17. Economics and Religion By Chiswick, Carmel U.
  18. Larger groups may alleviate collective action problems By Sung Ha Hwang

  1. By: Angelo Antoci; Fabio Sabatini; Mauro Sodini
    Abstract: We develop a dynamic model to analyze the sources and the evolution of social participation and social capital in a growing economy characterized by exogenous technical progress. Starting from the assumption that the well-being of agents basically depends on material and relational goods, we show that the best-case scenarios hold when technology and social capital both support just one of the two productions at the expenses of the other. However, trajectories are possible where technology and social interaction balance one another in fostering the growth of both the social and the private sector of the economy. Along such tracks, technology may play a crucial role in supporting a “socially sustainable” economic growth.
    Keywords: technology, economic growth, relational goods, social participation, social capital
    JEL: O33 J22 O41 Z13
    Date: 2010–03
  2. By: Martin Gächter; David A. Savage; Benno Torgler
    Abstract: This paper analyzes the effectiveness of social capital in reducing the negative externalities associated with stress, as well as the physical and psychological strain indicators among police officers. Despite the fact that there is a large multidisciplinary literature on stress or on social capital, the link between both factors is still underexplored. In this empirical paper we therefore aim at reducing such a shortcoming. We focus on a strategically important work environment, namely law enforcement agents, that is not only characterized as physically and emotionally demanding, but also as an essential part for a well-functioning society due to the fact that inefficiencies in the police force can induce large negative externalities. Using a multivariate regression analysis focusing on eight different proxies for stress and strain, and two proxies for social capital and conducting several robustness checks, we find strong evidence that an increased level of social capital is correlated with a lower level of strain. From a policy perspective, our findings suggest that stress reduction programs should actively engage employees to build stronger social networks.
    Keywords: Social Capital; Trust; Stress and Strain; Gender; Police Officers; Burnout
    JEL: I1 I31 J24 J81 Z13
    Date: 2009–09
  3. By: Karla Hoff; Mayuresh Kshetramade; Ernst Fehr
    Abstract: Well-functioning groups enforce social norms that restrain opportunism, but the social structure of a society may encourage or inhibit norm enforcement. Here we study how the exogenous assignment to different positions in an extreme social hierarchy – the caste system – affects individuals’ willingness to punish violations of a cooperation norm. Although we control for individual wealth, education, and political participation, low caste individuals exhibit a much lower willingness to punish norm violations that hurt members of their own caste, suggesting a cultural difference across caste status in the concern for members of one’s own community. The lower willingness to punish may inhibit the low caste’s ability to sustain collective action and so may contribute to its economic vulnerability.
    Keywords: Social norms, informal sanctions, third party punishment, endogenous social preferences, social exclusion, collective action, caste
    JEL: D02 D64
    Date: 2010–02
  4. By: I. Semih Akçomak; Bas ter Weel
    Abstract: This research shows that social capital is important in explaining why crime is so heterogeneous across space. Social capital is considered as a latent construct composed of a variety of indicators, such as blood donations, voter turnout, voluntary contributions to community well-being, and trust. To isolate exogenous variation in social capital, three historical variables are used as instruments: the fraction of foreigners, the number of schools and the fraction of Protestants in 1859. The historical information provides heterogeneity across municipalities in these three variables. In an application to Dutch municipalities the 2SLS estimates suggest that the exogenous component of social capital is signicantly and negatively correlated with current crime rates, after controlling for a range of contemporaneous socio-economic indicators. Next, the robustness analysis shows why some social capital indicators are more useful than the others in applied economic research.
    Keywords: Social capital; Crime; the Netherlands
    JEL: A13 A14 K42 Z13
    Date: 2009–11
  5. By: Judith K. Hellerstein; Melissa McInerney; David Neumark
    Abstract: We specify and implement a test for the presence and importance of labor market network based on residential proximity in determining the establishments at which people work. Using matched employer-employee data at the establishment level, we measure the importance of these network effects for groups broken out by race, ethnicity, and various measures of skill. The evidence indicates that these types of labor market networks do exist and play an important role in determining the establishments where workers work, that they are more important for minorities and the less-skilled, especially among Hispanics, and that these networks appear to be race-based.
    Date: 2010–03
  6. By: Fabio Sabatini
    Abstract: This paper carries out an investigation into the socio-economic determinants of couples’ childbearing decisions in Italy. Since having children is in most cases a “couple matter”, the analysis accounts for the characteristics of both the possible parents. Our results do not support established theoretical predictions according to which the increase in the opportunity cost of motherhood connected to higher female labour participation is responsible for the fall in fertility. On the contrary, the instability of the women’s work status (i.e. their being occasional, precarious, and low-paid workers) reveals to be a significant dissuasive deterrent discouraging the decision to have children. Couples with unemployed women are less likely to plan childbearing as well. Other relevant explanatory variables are current family size and the strength of family ties.
    Keywords: Fertility, family planning, parenthood, childbearing, participation, job instability, labour precariousness, social capital, Italy.
    JEL: C25 J13 Z1
    Date: 2010–03
  7. By: Akcomak, Semih (UNU-MERIT, Maastricht University, and CPB (Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis)); Stoneman, Paul (Department of Sociology, University of Essex)
    Abstract: Social capital increases efficiency by reducing transaction costs, creating new forms of information exchange and by inducing change in individual attitudes. How Royal Society of London, the Media and the Private Prosecution Societies functioned in the 17th and 18th century Britain display astonishing similarities with these three elements that have been identified by contemporary scholars. By and large current literature treats social capital as novel phenomenon, as "manna from heaven". We argue that social capital is no such magical discovery and it could emerge whenever and wherever social networks exist.
    Keywords: Social capital, British History, Voluntary associations
    JEL: A12 A13 N33 Z13
    Date: 2010
  8. By: Martha A. Starr
    Abstract: Recent years have seen rising discussion of ethical consumption as a means of stemming global warming, challenging unsavory business practices, and promoting other pro-social goals. This paper first lays out a conceptual framework for understanding the spread of ethical consumption, in which heterogeneous preferences and sensitivity to social norms feature centrally. It then presents empirical evidence from a well-known nationally representative survey on factors associated with tendencies to buy ethically. It is found that, ceteris paribus, people are more likely to buy ethically when others around them do too, consistent with a role of social norms in promoting ethical-consumption behaviors.
    JEL: A13 D63 D64 E21 D12
    Date: 2009–06
  9. By: Jeffrey Carpenter; Caitlin Knowles Myers
    Abstract: We examine motivations for prosocial behavior using new data on volunteer firefighters that contain a dictator-game based measure of altruism, surveyed measures of other behavioral factors, and call records that provide an objective measure of time spent volunteering. Controlling for a variety of other explanations, we find that the decision to volunteer is positively correlated with altruism as well as with concern for social reputation or image.” Moreover, by utilizing variation in the presence and level of small stipends paid to the firefighters, we find that the positive effect of monetary incentives declines with image concerns, supporting a prediction that extrinsic incentives can crowd out image motivation for prosocial behavior.
    Keywords: volunteer, altruism, reputation, extrinsic motivation, firefighter
    JEL: C93 D12 J22 D64 D82
    Date: 2010
  10. By: N. MORAY; R. STEVENS;
    Abstract: There is an increasing consensus among academics that the common denominator of ‘social entrepreneurs’ is their adherence to a ‘dominant social mission’. The extent to which social entrepreneurs actually adhere to socially oriented goals and values is largely taken for granted and treated as a black box. Building on established theoretical constructs, this paper develops a number of measures that can potentially contribute to our understanding of how ‘social’ social entrepreneurs really are. More specifically, we empirically test four potential measures of “social proclivity” in a well defined sample of social ventures, performing confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) (N~270). CFA points to high reliability and validity for the measures of each of the four constructs and supports the existence of a higher order construct “social proclivity”. Further, results show that social entrepreneurs display strong social as well as economic motives, providing an empirical base for actually capturing the dual-bottom line that characterises these enterprises.
    Date: 2009–12
  11. By: Garcia-Rosa, Alfonso; Kiss, Hubert Janos; Rodriguez-Lara, Ismael (Departamentos y Servicios::Departamentos de la UMU::Fundamentos del Análisis Económico)
    Abstract: We develop, both theoretically and experimentally, a stereotypical environment that allows for co-ordination breakdown, leading to a bank run. Three depositors are located at the nodes of a network and have to decide whether to keep their funds deposited or to withdraw. One of the depositors has immediate liquidity needs, whereas the other two depositors do not. Depositors act sequentially and observe others’ actions only if connected by the network. Theoretically, a link connecting the first two depositors to decide is sufficient to avoid a bank run. However, our experimental evidence shows that subjects’choice is not a¤ected by the existence of the link per se. Instead, being observed and the particular action that is observed determine subjects’choice. Our results highlight the importance of initial decisions in the emergence of a bank run. In particular, Bayesian analysis reveals that subjects clearly depart from predicted behavior when observing a withdrawal.
    Keywords: bank runs, coordination failure, experimental evidence, networks
    JEL: D12 R23
    Date: 2010–01
  12. By: Anderson, Siwan (Department of Economics, University of British Columbia); Baland, Jean-Marie (CRED, University of Namur); Moene, Karl O. (Dept. of Economics, University of Oslo)
    Abstract: Informal groups cannot rely on external enforcement to insure that members abide by their obligations. It is generally assumed that these problems are solved by "social sanctions" and reputational effects. The present paper focuses on roscas, one of the most commonly found informal financial institutions in the developing world. We first show that, in the absence of an external (social) sanctioning mechanism, roscas are never sustainable, even if the defecting member is excluded from all future roscas. We then argue that the organizational structure of the rosca itself can be designed so as to reduce the severity of enforcement issues. The implications of our analysis are tested against first-hand evidence from rosca groups in a Kenyan slum.
    Keywords: Roscas; informal financial institutions; developing world
    JEL: G20
    Date: 2010–02–05
  13. By: Adrian Beck; Rudolf Kerschbamer; Jianying Qiu; Matthias Sutter
    Abstract: We examine the influence of guilt and trust on the performance of credence goods markets. An expert can make a promise to a consumer first, whereupon the consumer can express her trust by paying an interaction price before the expert's provision and charging decisions. We argue that the expert's promise induces a commitment that triggers guilt if the promise is broken, and guilt is exacerbated by higher interaction prices. An experiment qualitatively confirms our predictions: (1) most experts make the predicted promise; (2) proper promises induce consumer-friendly behavior; and (3) higher interaction prices increase the commitment value of proper promises.
    Keywords: Promises, Guilt, Trust, Credence Goods, Experts, Reciprocity
    JEL: C72 C91 D82
    Date: 2010–03
  14. By: Jeanne Hagenbach (University of Mannheim)
    Abstract: In the dynamic game we analyze, players are the members of a fixed network. Everyone is initially endowed with an information item that he is the only player to hold. Players are offered a finite number of periods to centralize the initially dispersed items in the hands of any one member of the network. In every period, each agent strategically chooses whether or not to transmit the items he holds to his neighbors in the network. The sooner all the items are gathered by any individual, the better it is for the group of players as a whole. Besides, the agent who first centralizes all the items is offered an additional reward that he keeps for himself. In this framework where information transmission is strategic and physically restricted, we provide a necessary and suffcient condition for a group to pool information items in every equilibrium. This condition is independent of the network structure. The architecture of links however affects the time needed before items are centralized in equilibrium.
    Keywords: communication network, communication dilemma, dynamic network game, strategic communication, war of attrition
    JEL: D83 C72 L22
    Date: 2010–04
  15. By: Maria Claudia Lopez (School of Environmental and Rural Studies, Bogota Colombia); James J. Murphy (Department of Economics, University of Alaska, Anchorage); John M. Spraggon; John K. Stranlund (Department of Resource Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
    Abstract: This paper presents the results from a series of framed field experiments conducted in fishing communities off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The goal is to investigate the relative effectiveness of exogenous regulatory pressure and pro-social emotions in promoting cooperative behavior in a public goods context. The random public revelation of an individual’s contribution and its consequences for the rest of the group leads to significantly higher public good contributions and social welfare than regulatory pressure, even under regulations that are designed to motivate fully efficient contributions.
    Keywords: public goods, field experiments, pro-social emotions, social dilemma, regulation, enforcement.
    JEL: C93 H41 Q20 Q28
    Date: 2009–08
  16. By: Shiqing Jiang; Ming Lu; Hiroshi Sato
    Abstract: This paper presents the impact of income inequality on the subjective wellbeing of three different social groups in urban China. We classify urban social groups according to their hukou status: rural migrants, gbornh urban residents, and gacquiredh urban residents who had changed their hukou identity from rural to urban. We focus on how the income disparity between migrants and urban residents affects individual happiness. The main results are as follows. People feel unhappy if inequality is related to their hukou identity, irrespective of whether they are urban residents with or without hukou. However, when identity-related inequality and other individual- and city-level characteristics are controlled, inequality measured by city-level Gini increases happiness. We also find that among urban residents who own hukou, mostly the gacquiredh urban residents are unhappy with hukou-related inequality. This implies that identity is formed by both policy and personal experience. gBornh urban residents have lower happiness scores when they are old. Communist Party members strongly dislike the identity-related inequality.
    Keywords: Inequality, Hukou identity, Happiness, Migration, Social integration
    JEL: I31 O15 R23
    Date: 2010–03
  17. By: Chiswick, Carmel U. (University of Illinois at Chicago)
    Abstract: This paper provides an overview of the relationship between economics and religion. It first considers the effects of economic incentives in the religious marketplace on consumers’ demand for "religion." It then shows how this demand affects religious institutions and generates a supply of religious goods and services. Other topics include the structure of this religious marketplace and the related "marketplace for ideas" in a religiously pluralistic society. Empirical evidence is summarized for the effects on selected economic behaviors of religious affiliation and intensity of belief or practice.
    Keywords: economics, religion, human capital
    JEL: Z12
    Date: 2010–04
  18. By: Sung Ha Hwang (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
    Abstract: This paper shows how larger group size can enhance punishing behavior in social dilemmas and hence support higher levels of cooperation. We focus on describing conflict technology using Lanchester's equations and study the role of "collectivity" of punishment to support cooperation in large groups. The main results suggest that as long as defectors are, even slightly, less "collective" than punishers, Lanchester's law can be applied to show that a smaller proportion of punishers can successfully eliminate defectors as the size of the population increases. JEL Categories:
    Keywords: Collective action, group size, collective punishment, Lanchester's law
    Date: 2009–06

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