nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2021‒08‒09
five papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”

  1. Social Interactions in a Pandemic By Laura Alfaro; Ester Faia; Nora Lamersdorf; Farzad Saidi
  2. Witchcraft Beliefs, Social Relations, and Development By Boris Gershman
  3. Health capital norms and intergenerational transmission of non-communicable chronic diseases By Goulão, Catarina; Pérez-Barahona, Agustín
  4. Personal norms in the online public good game By Marco Catola; Simone D'Alessandro; Pietro Guarnieri; Veronica Pizziol
  5. Parochial cooperation and the emergence of signalling norms By Przepiorka, Wojtek; Andreas, Diekmann

  1. By: Laura Alfaro (Harvard Business School & NBER); Ester Faia (Goethe University Frankfurt & CEPR); Nora Lamersdorf (Goethe University Frankfurt); Farzad Saidi (University of Bonn & CEPR)
    Abstract: Externalities and social preferences, such as patience and altruism, play a key role in the endogenous choice of social interactions, which in turn affect the diffusion of a pandemic or patterns of social segregation. We build a dynamic model, augmented with an SIR block, in which agents optimally choose the intensity of both general and group-specific social interactions. The equilibria in the baseline and the SIR-network model result from a matching process governed by optimally chosen contact rates. Taking into account agents’ endogenous behavior generates markedly different predictions relative to a naıve SIR model. Through a planner’s problem, we show that neglecting agents’ response to risk leads to misguided policy decisions. Mobility restrictions beyond agents’ restraint are needed to the extent that aggregate externalities are not curtailed by social preferences.
    Keywords: social interactions, pandemics, SIR network models, social preferences, social planner, targeted policies
    JEL: D62 D64 D85 D91 E70 I10 I18
    Date: 2021–08
  2. By: Boris Gershman
    Abstract: Beliefs in witchcraft, or the ability of certain people to intentionally cause harm via supernatural means, have been documented across societies all over the world. Extensive ethnographic research on this phenomenon over the past century explored the many roles of witchcraft beliefs in communities highlighting both their social functions and detrimental consequences. Yet, empirical evidence based on systematic statistical analyses or experiments has been lacking until very recently. This chapter reviews the nascent literature on witchcraft beliefs in economics and other quantitative social sciences and summarizes the main directions and results of this research to date. The major themes discussed in the chapter include social relations, economic development, and institutions in their connection to witchcraft beliefs.
    Keywords: Culture, Development, Institutions, Religion, Social capital, Witchcraft
    JEL: I31 O10 O31 O43 O57 Z10 Z12 Z13
    Date: 2021
  3. By: Goulão, Catarina; Pérez-Barahona, Agustín
    Abstract: We look at how social norms regarding health aect the dynamics of an epidemic of NCDs. We present an overlapping generations model in which agents live for three periods (childhood, adulthood and old age). Adulthood consumption choices have a impact on the health capital of the following period, which is in part inherited by their ospring and aects their osprings' probability of developing a NCD. As a result of this intergenerational externality, agents would choose lower health conditions and higher unhealthy activities than that which is socially optimal. In addition, parental choices aect their own old age health capital with which their ospring compare their own. A social norm imposing agents to be as healthy as the previous generation balances the negative eects of unhealthy adulthood choices. Fiscal policies alone or combined with public policies regarding social norms can be used to restore optimality. Our results underline the interplay between sin taxes and health-related social norms.
    JEL: H21 H23 I18
    Date: 2021–07–30
  4. By: Marco Catola; Simone D'Alessandro; Pietro Guarnieri; Veronica Pizziol
    Abstract: This paper shows that personal norms have a prominent role in explaining prosocial contributions in an online public good game. This finding suggests that the role of social norms might be loosened when subjects are distanced, and interaction occurs online and in complete anonymity. Through cluster analysis, we show that a) subjects who contributed more hold both high expectations about the social norms followed by others and a high personal normative commitment; b) subjects who contributed less hold both low expectations and have low personal commitment. However, for both clusters the personal norm is the main driver of decisions. Moreover, we elicited personal and social norms in a group of subjects not performing the contribution task, thus obtaining a measure of norms not affected by self-justification and ruling out a potential endogeneity issue.
    Keywords: Public good game, online experiment, personal norms, social norms, belief elicitation, social dilemma
    JEL: C90 D71 H41
    Date: 2021–07–01
  5. By: Przepiorka, Wojtek; Andreas, Diekmann
    Abstract: Why do people adorn themselves with elaborate body piercings or tattoos, wear obstructing garbs, engage in life-threatening competitions and other wasteful and harmful but socially stipulated practices? Norms of cooperation and coordination, which promote the efficient attainment of collective benefits, can be explained by theories of collective action. However, social norms prescribing wasteful and harmful behaviours have eluded such explanations. We argue that signalling theory constitutes the basis for the understanding of the emergence of such norms, which we call signalling norms. Signalling norms emerge as a result of the uncertainty about who is friend and who is foe. The need to overcoming this uncertainty arises when different groups compete for scarce resources and individuals must be able to identify, trust and cooperate with their fellow group members. After reviewing the mechanisms that explain the emergence of cooperation and coordination norms, we introduce the notion of signalling norms as markers of group distinction. We argue that adherence to signalling norms constitutes a commitment promoting parochial cooperation rather than a quality-revealing signal facilitating partner choice. We formalize our argument in a game-theoretic model that allows us to specify the boundary conditions for the emergence of signalling norms. Our paper concludes with a discussion of potential applications of our model and a comparison of signalling norms with related concepts.
    Date: 2021–07–24

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