nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2016‒03‒06
eleven papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”

  1. Carbon emission and social capital in Sweden By Marbuah, George; Gren, Ing-Marie
  2. Bread and Bullets By Akerlof, George A.; Snower, Dennis J.
  3. Does the Reliability of Institutions Affect Public Good Contributions? Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment By Fochmann, Martin; Jahnke, Bjoern; Wagener, Andreas
  4. On Peer Effects: Behavioral Contagion of (Un)Ethical Behavior and the Role of Social Identity By Dimant, Eugen
  5. Witchcraft Beliefs and the Erosion of Social Capital: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa and Beyond By Boris Gershman
  6. Gossip and the Efficiency of Interactions By Fehr, Dietmar; Sutter, Matthias
  7. Intra-household Resource Allocation and Familial Ties By Harounan Kazianga; Zaki Wahhaj
  8. Social Connections and Cultural Heterogeneity By WU, JIABIN
  9. The Role of Trust-Control Mechanisms in Operations Processes: Mitigating Mission Drift in a Microfinance Institution in Gujarat, India By Viresh Amin
  10. Smoking Initiation: Peers and Personality By Chih-Sheng Hsieh; Hans van Kippersluis
  11. Civic engagement and its role in mitigating electoral violence in Nigeria: implications for the 2015 general elections By Aniekwe, Chika Charles; Agbiboa, Daniel Egiegba

  1. By: Marbuah, George (Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences); Gren, Ing-Marie (Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
    Abstract: This paper addresses the issue of whether or not social capital explains per capita CO2 emissions dynamics in Swedish counties in an augmented environmental Kuznets curve framework. By accounting for issues of endogeneity in the presence of dynamic and spatial effects using geo-referenced emissions data, we show that per capita carbon emissions in a county matters for other counties and that net of economic, demographic and environmental factors, social capital has the potential to reduce carbon emissions in Sweden albeit less robustly. We test two different social capital constructs; trust in government and environmental engagement. Specifically, trust in the government inures to the reduction in CO2 emissions. Membership and engagement in environmental organisations reduces CO2 emissions only through its interaction with per capita income or trust. The implication of our estimates suggest that investment geared toward increasing the stock of social capital could inure to reductions in CO2 emissions in addition to climate policy instruments in Sweden
    Keywords: Social capital; environmental Kuznets curve; co2 emissions; spatial analyses; Sweden
    JEL: C23 Q53 Q56 Z13
    Date: 2015–04–30
  2. By: Akerlof, George A. (Georgetown University); Snower, Dennis J. (Kiel Institute for the World Economy)
    Abstract: Standard economics omits the role of narratives (the stories that people tell themselves and others) when they make all kinds of decisions. Narratives play a role in understanding the environment; focusing attention; predicting events; motivating action; assigning social roles and identities; defining power relations; and establishing and conveying social norms. This paper describes the role narratives play in decision making, as it also juxtaposes this description against the backdrop of the Bolshevik-spawned narrative that played a critical role in the history of Russia and the Soviet Union in the 20th Century.
    Keywords: narrative, motivation, attention, prediction, identity, social assignment
    JEL: A12 A13 A14 D03 D04 D20 D23 D30 D62 D71 D72 D74 E02
    Date: 2016–02
  3. By: Fochmann, Martin; Jahnke, Bjoern; Wagener, Andreas
    Abstract: Reliable institutions - i.e., institutions that live up to the norms that agents expect them to keep - foment cooperative behavior. We experimentally confirm this hypothesis in a public goods game with a salient norm that cooperation was socially demanded and corruption ought not to occur. When nevertheless corruption attempts came up, groups that were told that "the system" had fended off the attempts made considerably higher contributions to the public good than groups that only learned that the attempt did not affect their payoffs or that were not at all exposed to corruption.
    Keywords: Public goods, Experiment, Institutions
    JEL: H41 A13 C91
    Date: 2016–02
  4. By: Dimant, Eugen
    Abstract: Social interactions and the resulting peer effects loom large in both economic and social contexts. This is particularly true for the spillover of (un)ethical behavior in explaining how behavior and norms spread across individual people, neighborhoods, or even cultures. Although we understand and observe the outcomes of such contagion effects, little is known about the drivers and the underlying mechanisms, especially with respect to the role of social identity with one’s peers and the (un)ethicality of behavior one is exposed to. We use a variant of a give-or-take dictator game to shed light on these aspects in a con-trolled laboratory setting. Our experiment contributes to the existing literature in two ways: first, using a novel approach of inducing social identification with one’s peers in the lab, our design allows us to analyze the spillover-effects of (un)ethical behavior under varied levels of social identification. Second, we study whether contagion of ethical behavior differs from contagion of unethical behavior. Our results suggest that a) unethical behavior is more contagious, and b) social identification with one’s peers and not the (un)ethicality of observed behavior is the main driver of behavioral contagion. Our findings are particularly important from a policy perspective both in order to foster pro-social and mitigate deviant behavior.
    Keywords: Conformity, Behavioral Contagion, Peer effects, Social Identity, Unethical Behavior
    JEL: D03 D73 D81
    Date: 2015–12–28
  5. By: Boris Gershman
    Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between witchcraft beliefs, a deep-rooted cultural phenomenon, and various elements of social capital. Using novel survey data from nineteen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa we establish a robust negative association between the prevalence of witchcraft beliefs and multiple measures of trust which holds after accounting for country fixed effects and potential confounding factors at the individual, regional, and ethnic-group levels. This finding extends to other metrics of social capital, namely charitable giving and participation in religious group activities. Such coexistence of witchcraft beliefs and antisocial attitudes stands in stark contrast to a well-explored alternative cultural equilibrium characterized by religious prosociality. Evidence from societies beyond Africa shows that in preindustrial communities where witchcraft is believed to be an important cause of illness, mistrust and other antisocial traits are inculcated since childhood. Furthermore, second-generation immigrants in Europe originating from countries with widespread witchcraft beliefs are generally less trusting.
    Keywords: Culture, Persistence, Social capital, Superstition, Trust, Witchcraft
    JEL: O10 Z10 Z12 Z13
    Date: 2015
  6. By: Fehr, Dietmar (WZB - Social Science Research Center Berlin); Sutter, Matthias (University of Cologne)
    Abstract: Human communication in organizations often involves a large amount of gossiping about others. Here we study in an experiment whether gossip affects the efficiency of human interactions. We let subjects play a trust game. Third parties observe a trustee's behavior and can gossip about it by sending a message to the trustor with whom the observed trustee will be paired (for the first time) in the next round. While messages are non-verifiable and sometimes also incorrect, the possibility of gossip is highly efficiency-increasing compared to a situation without any gossip. In two further control treatments, we show that the mere fact of being observed by third parties cannot explain the efficiency-increasing effect of gossip, and that noisy gossip (where information transmission from third parties to trustors can fail) still increases efficiency, but less so than if information transmission is undisturbed.
    Keywords: gossip, communication, trust game, efficiency, experiment
    JEL: C72 C92
    Date: 2016–02
  7. By: Harounan Kazianga (Oklahoma State University); Zaki Wahhaj (University of Kent)
    Abstract: In this paper, we investigate the link between intra-household resource allocation and familial ties between household members. We show that, within the same geographic, economic and social environments, households where members have `stronger' familial ties (e.g. a nuclear family household) achieve near Pareto efficient allocation of productive resources and Pareto efficient allocation of consumption while households with `weaker' familial ties (e.g. an extended family household) do not. We propose a theoretical model of the household based on the idea that altruism between household members vary with familial ties which generates predictions consistent with the observed empirical patterns.
    Date: 2016
  8. By: WU, JIABIN
    Abstract: This paper proposes a cultural evolutionary model in which the assortativity level of matching is endogenously determined. We consider a population consisting of two cultural groups. Each group has a leader who can actively exert effort to enhance social connections among group members. Social connections increase the agents' probabilities of matching with one another among the same group in economic activities and thus increase the assortativity of matching in the population. We find that the endogenous process by which the assortativity level is determined can lead to cultural heterogeneity. While cultural homogeneity is the only prediction when the assortativity level is constant.
    Keywords: Cultural evolution, social connections, cultural heterogeneity, assortative matching, evolutionary game theory.
    JEL: C73 Z13
    Date: 2016–02–18
  9. By: Viresh Amin (Department of Management, Birkbeck College University of London)
    Abstract: This study explores how managers of microfinance institutions (MFIs) use trust-control mechanisms in the operation processes to mitigate the problem of mission drift arising out of the need to meet the dual goals of social development and financial self-sustainability. Using a case study methodology, purposive sampling, and replication logic, data from the operations processes of four geographically different sites of a microfinance institution in Gujarat, India were analyzed. The findings suggest that the managers of microfinance institutions balance integrity-trust, benevolence-trust, competence-trust, and control mechanisms to achieve dual goals of social development and financial self-sustainability. The conditions and contingencies under which trust-control mechanisms are most effective for mitigating mission drift are identified. The findings also indicate that managers of the microfinance institution use calculative and relational forms of trust to achieve the empowerment of women borrowers along with the fulfilment of the aims of financial self-sustainability. Finally, the study places mission drift mitigation within its ethical context by examining client vulnerability and the MFI’s operational responses.
    Date: 2014–06
  10. By: Chih-Sheng Hsieh (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, PR China); Hans van Kippersluis (Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands)
    Abstract: Social interactions are generally thought to play an important role in smoking initiation among adolescents. In this paper we exploit detailed friendship nominations in the US Add Health data, and extend the Spatial Autoregressive Model (SAR) model to deal with (i) endogenous peer selection, and (ii) unobserved contextual effects, in order to identify the endogenous peer effect. We show that peer effects in the uptake of smoking are predominantly affecting individuals who are emotionally unstable. That is, individuals with "weaker" personalities are more vulnerable to peer pressure. This finding not only helps understanding heterogeneity in peer effects, but additionally provides a promising mechanism through which personality affects later life health and socioeconomic outcomes.
    Keywords: Smoking, Peer effects, Personality, SAR model, Bayesian MCMC
    JEL: C11 C21 I12
    Date: 2015–08–03
  11. By: Aniekwe, Chika Charles; Agbiboa, Daniel Egiegba
    Abstract: In May 1999, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, made an epochal transition to democratic civilian rule following roughly thirty-three years of military dictatorship. Since 1999, Nigeria has held four successive elections, which have all been (more or less) undermined by electoral violence. Despite this recurrent and disturbing trend of electoral violence, few works have attempted to systematically engage with three key questions: why is electoral violence a recurrent phenomenon in Nigeria? Why have there been so few constitutional provisions to mitigate its recurrence? What lessons can be learned from Nigeria’s turbulent electoral past, especially with regards to the role of civic engagement? These are the core questions this paper seeks to address. This paper draws its data primarily from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)-Electoral Violence Education and Resolution (EVER) programme, with which the authors were actively involved during the 2007 and 2011 general elections in Nigeria. To balance any inconsistencies, data derived from a content analysis of IFES reports and cumulative observations will be triangulated and cross-validated with reports of different Election Observation Missions to Nigeria (1999-2011), as well as reports from local and international observation teams and key International NGOs working in the areas of elections and democracy in Nigeria, including National Democratic Institute (NDI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Republican Institute (IRI). The paper thus argues that as Nigeria prepares for 2015 elections, important lessons should be adapted from the IFES-EVER project to ensure robust civic engagement in preventing and mitigating electoral related violence. The use of electoral support networks, link with Nigerian police and other security agencies, constant engagement and information sharing between INEC and all relevant stakeholders as well as biweekly reportage and publication of incidents of electoral violence with names of perpetrators will go a long way in preventing and mitigating incidents of electoral violence in Nigeria 2015 General Elections. Furthermore, crucial attention should also be paid to Nigerian legal and constitutional provisions on electoral violence with the view to reviewing the standards and level of sanctions to perpetrators.
    Keywords: Nigeria; elections
    Date: 2015–01

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