nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2019‒03‒18
eight papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”

  1. A Tale of Two Cities: An Experiment on Inequality and Preferences By M. Bigoni; S. Bortolotti; V. Rattini
  2. Determinants of Trust: The Role of Personal Experiences By Frederik Schwerter; Florian Zimmermann
  3. Narratives, Imperatives, and Moral Reasoning By Roland Bénabou; Armin Falk; Jean Tirole
  4. Community Origins of Industrial Entrepreneurship in Pre-Independence India By Gupta, Bishnupriya; Mookherjee, Dilip; Munshi, Kaivan; Sanclemente, Mario
  5. Does revealing personality data affect prosocial behavior? By Michalis Drouvelis; Nikolaos Georgantzis
  6. Nudging cooperation By Barron, Kai; Nurminen, Tuomas
  7. Female genital mutilation and migration in Mali. Do return migrants transfer social norms? By Diabate, Idrissa; Mesplé-Somps, Sandrine
  8. Female Seclusion from Paid Work: A Social Norm or Cultural Preference? By Mohammad Niaz Asadullah; Zaki Wahhaj

  1. By: M. Bigoni; S. Bortolotti; V. Rattini
    Abstract: We study how differences in socio-economic background correlate with preferences and beliefs, in a sample of college students born in a mid-sized Italian city. Our findings indicate that participants living in an area characterized by a high socio-economic environment tend to trust more and are more inclined to reciprocate higher levels of trust, as compared to those coming from less wealthy neighborhoods. This behavioral difference is, at least in part, driven by heterogeneities in beliefs: subjects from the most affluent part of the city have more optimistic expectations on their counterpart's trustworthiness than those living in a lower socio-economic environment. By contrast, no significant differences emerge in other preferences: generosity, risk-attitudes, and time preferences. Finally, we do not find any systematic evidence of out-group discrimination based on neighborhood identity.
    JEL: C90 D31 D63 R23
    Date: 2019–03
  2. By: Frederik Schwerter; Florian Zimmermann
    Abstract: Social interactions pervade daily life and thereby create an abundance of social experiences. Such personal experiences likely shape what we believe and who we are. In this paper, we ask if and how personal experiences from social interactions determine individuals’ inclination to trust others? We implement an experimental environment that allows us to manipulate prior social experiences— either being paid or not being paid by a peer subject for a task—and afterwards measure participant’s willingness to trust others. We contrast this situation with a control condition where we keep all aspects of the prior experiences identical, except that we remove the social dimension. Our key finding is that after positive social experiences, subjects’ willingness to trust is substantially higher relative to subjects who made negative social experiences. No such effect is obtained in the control condition where we removed the social aspect of experiences. Findings from a difference-in-difference analysis confirm this pattern. Our results cannot be explained by rational learning, income effects, pay or social comparison related mood, disappointment aversion and expectations-based or social reference points. Delving into the underlying mechanisms, we provide evidence that non-standard belief patterns are an important driver of experience effects.
    Keywords: Determinants of Trust, Experiences, Beliefs, Non-standard Learning, Experiments
    JEL: C91 D03 D81
    Date: 2019–03
  3. By: Roland Bénabou; Armin Falk; Jean Tirole
    Abstract: By downplaying externalities, magnifying the cost of moral behavior, or suggesting not being pivotal, exculpatory narratives can allow individuals to maintain a positive image when in fact acting in a morally questionable way. Conversely, responsibilizing narratives can help sustain better social norms. We investigate when narratives emerge from a principal or the actor himself, how they are interpreted and transmitted by others, and when they spread virally. We then turn to how narratives compete with imperatives (general moral rules or precepts) as alternative modes of communication to persuade agents to behave in desirable ways.
    Date: 2019–02
  4. By: Gupta, Bishnupriya (University of Warwick); Mookherjee, Dilip (Boston University); Munshi, Kaivan (University of Cambridge); Sanclemente, Mario (University of Warwick)
    Abstract: We argue that community networks played an important role in the emergence of Indian entrepreneurship in the early stages of the cotton textile and jute textile industries in the late 19th and early 20th century respectively, overcoming the lack of market institutions and government support. From business registers, we construct a yearly panel dataset of entrepreneurs in these two industries. We find no evidence that entry is affected by prior trading experience or price shocks in the corresponding upstream sector. Firm directors exhibited a high degree of clustering of entrepreneurs by community. The dynamics of entry is consistent with a model of network-based dynamics.
    Keywords: JEL Classification:
    Date: 2019
  5. By: Michalis Drouvelis; Nikolaos Georgantzis
    Abstract: Many modern organisations collect data on individuals’ personality traits as part of their human resource selection processes. We test experimentally whether revealing information on personality data impacts on pro-social behaviour as measured in a one-shot modified dictator game and a public goods game. Our focus is on the personality trait of agreeableness which has been shown to be a significant determinant of pro-sociality. We provide new evidence that revealing personality information for disagreeable individuals has detrimental effects on their pro-social behaviour as compared to the baseline no-information benchmark. This is not the case, however, for agreeable individuals when they are matched with agreeable individuals. Agreeable individuals become less pro-social when matched with disagreeable individuals and are aware of this. Our results suggest that information cues about personality significantly affect economic behaviour and have implications for employees’ personality assessments as part of standard hiring processes.
    Keywords: personality, social preferences, inequity aversion, cooperation, laboratory experiment
    JEL: C91 D70 H41
    Date: 2019
  6. By: Barron, Kai; Nurminen, Tuomas
    Abstract: This paper experimentally studies two simple interventions aimed at increasing public goods provision in settings in which accurate feedback about contributions is not available. The first intervention aims to exploit lying aversion by requiring subjects to send a non-verifiable ex post announcement about their contribution. The second intervention aims to nudge participants to higher contribution levels by simply labeling contributions of 16 or above as being ‘good’. We find that the ex post announcement mechanism does not have a significant effect on the cooperation rate. However, the nudge leads to a striking increase in the cooperation rate. We provide suggestive evidence that the nudge we use provides subjects with a focal point, helping conditional cooperators to coordinate their contributions. Moreover, despite the lack of monetary incentives to lie, we find that a non-negligible group of subjects inflate their anonymous announcements.
    Keywords: cooperation,nudge,public good,experiment,lying,focal point
    JEL: C91 C72 H41 Z13
    Date: 2018
  7. By: Diabate, Idrissa; Mesplé-Somps, Sandrine
    Abstract: In this paper, we investigate the power of migration as a mechanism in the transmission of social norms, taking Mali and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as a case study. Mali has a strong FGM culture and a long-standing history of migration. We use an original household-level database coupled with census data to analyze the extent to which girls living in localities with high rates of return migrants are less prone to FGM. Malians migrate predominantly to other African countries where female circumcision is uncommon (e.g. Côte d’Ivoire) and to countries where FGM is totally banned (France and other developed countries) and where anti-FGM information campaigns frequently target African migrants. Taking a two-step instrumental variable approach to control for the endogeneity of migration and return decisions, we show that return migrants have a negative and significant influence on FGM practices. More precisely, we show that this result is primarily driven by the flow of returnees from Cote d'Ivoire. We also show that adults living in localities with return migrants are more informed about FGM and in favor of legislation. The impact of returnees may occur through several channels, including compositional effects, changes in return migrants' attitudes toward FGM, and return migrants convincing stayers to change their FGM practices.
    Keywords: Female Genital Excision,social transfers,migration,Mali
    JEL: I15 O55 F22
    Date: 2019
  8. By: Mohammad Niaz Asadullah; Zaki Wahhaj
    Abstract: We propose and empirically test a theory of female paid work participation in a setting with traditional norms of female seclusion. Theoretically, we distinguish between innate preferences for female seclusion – potentially transmitted from parents to children – and a practice of female seclusion due to social pressure for adhering to these norms. Using a purposefully designed survey on female work in Bangladesh, we use information on purdah practice at the level of individuals, households, and communities to construct measures of individual preference and community pressure for female seclusion. Using past purdah practice within an individual’s parental home and at the level of the sub-district as instruments, we provide causal estimates of the effect of individual preferences and social pressure for female seclusion on female paid work participation. Our instrumental variable estimates indicate that individual purdah preferences have no effect, but the social prevalence of purdah has a strong negative effect on female paid work participation. We provide robustness checks to show that the results are not being driven by other potential determinants of purdah practice in Bangladesh, including religiosity within the community, rising female enrolment in religious schools, growth of microfinance, and norm transmission through migrant links to religiously conservative countries.
    Keywords: labour force participation; culture; social norms; gender; Bangladesh
    Date: 2019–02

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