nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2023‒01‒16
eleven papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”

  1. Trust, Collaboration, and Policy Attitudes in the Public Sector By Keefer, Philip; Perilla, Sergio; Vlaicu, Razvan
  2. Medieval Anti-Semitism, Weimar Social Capital, and the Rise of the Nazi Party: A Reconsideration By Guinnane, T. W.; Hoffman, P.
  3. The Immigrant Next Door: Long-Term Contact, Generosity, and Prejudice By Leonardo Bursztyn; Thomas Chaney; Tarek Alexander; Hassan Aakaash Rao
  4. To Insure or Not to Insure? Promoting Trust and Cooperation with Insurance Advice in Markets By Ben Grodeck; Franziska Tausch; Chengsi Wang; Erte Xiao
  5. The Management of the Pandemic and its Effects on Trust and Accountability By Monica Martinez-Bravo; Carlos Sanz
  6. Policy Responses, Social Norms, and Behavior Change in the Time of Covid-19 By Amira El-Shal; Eman Moustafa
  7. Inequality and social cohesion in Africa: Theoretical insights and an exploratory empirical investigation By Burchi, Francesco; Zapata-Román, Gabriela
  8. The Lion's Share: Evidence from Federal Contracts on the Value of Political Connections By Senay Agca; Deniz Igan
  9. Norm-signalling punishment By Daniele Nosenzo; Erte Xiao; Nina Xue
  10. On the design of public debate in social networks Michel Grabisch (a)(b) , Antoine Mandel (a)(b) * , Agnieszka Rusinowska (a)(c) By Michel Grabisch; Antoine Mandel; Agnieszka Rusinowska
  11. Diffusion in large networks By Michel Grabisch; Agnieszka Rusinowska; Xavier Venel

  1. By: Keefer, Philip; Perilla, Sergio; Vlaicu, Razvan
    Abstract: This paper examines new data on public sector employees from 18 Latin American countries to shed light on the role of trust in the performance of government agencies. We developed an original survey taken during the first COVID-19 wave that includes randomized experiments with pandemic-related treatments. We document that individual-level trust in coworkers, other public employees, and citizens is positively related to performance-enhancing behaviors, such as cooperation and information-sharing, and policy attitudes, such as openness to technological innovations in public service delivery. Trust is more strongly linked to positive behaviors and attitudes in non-merit-based civil service systems. High-trust and low-trust respondents report different assessments of their main work constraints. Also, they draw different inferences and prefer different policy responses when exposed to data-based framing treatments about social distancing outcomes in their countries. Low-trust public employees are more likely to assign responsibility for a negative outcome to the government and to prefer stricter enforcement of social distancing.
    Keywords: Trust;public sector;pandemic;Cooperation;Policy attitudes;Surveyexperiments
    JEL: D73 H83
    Date: 2021–05
  2. By: Guinnane, T. W.; Hoffman, P.
    Abstract: The persistence literature in economics and related disciplines connects recent outcomes to events long ago. This influential literature marks a promising development but has drawn criticism. We discuss two prominent examples that ground the rise of the Nazi Party in distant historical roots. Several econometric, analytical, and historical errors undermine the papers’ contention that deeply rooted culture and social capital fueled the Nazi rise. The broader lesson is that research of this type works best when it incorporates careful econometrics, serious consideration of underlying mechanisms (including formal theory), and, most important, scrupulous attention to history and to the limitations of historical data.
    Keywords: Historical persistence, medieval pogroms, social capital, culture, networks, Nazism, voting behavior, anti-Semitism, political parties, religion, empirical economics, data based estimates, econometrics
    JEL: C18 D71 D72 D85 D91 L14 N01 N13 N14 Z10 Z12
    Date: 2022–12–12
  3. By: Leonardo Bursztyn (University of Chicago, NBER - National Bureau of Economic Research [New York] - NBER - The National Bureau of Economic Research); Thomas Chaney (ECON - Département d'économie (Sciences Po) - Sciences Po - Sciences Po - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Tarek Alexander (BU - Boston University [Boston], NBER - National Bureau of Economic Research [New York] - NBER - The National Bureau of Economic Research); Hassan Aakaash Rao (Harvard University [Cambridge])
    Abstract: We study how decades-long exposure to individuals of a given foreign descent shapes natives' attitudes and behavior toward that group. Using individualized donations data from large charitable organizations, we show that long-term exposure to a given foreign ancestry leads to more generous behavior specifically toward that group's ancestral country. To shed light on mechanisms, we focus on attitudes and behavior toward Arab Muslims, combining several existing large-scale surveys, cross-county data on implicit prejudice, and a newly-collected national survey. We show that greater long-term exposure: (i) decreases both explicit and implicit prejudice against Arab-Muslims, (ii) reduces support for policies and political candidates hostile toward Arab-Muslims, (iii) leads to more personal contact with Arab-Muslim individuals, and (iv) increases knowledge of Arab-Muslims and Islam in general.
    Date: 2022–03
  4. By: Ben Grodeck (Department of Economics, Monash University); Franziska Tausch (Tausch: Stepstone); Chengsi Wang (Department of Economics, Monash University); Erte Xiao (Department of Economics, Monash University)
    Abstract: We design and test a novel insurance advice mechanism aimed at promoting trust and cooperation in markets with asymmetric information. In a buyer-seller game, sellers have the option to advise buyers on whether to purchase third-party insurance against the potential losses from the opportunistic behavior of strategic sellers. The theoretical model suggests that both cooperative and strategic sellers advise buyers not to purchase insurance. Once this advice has been given, strategic sellers are less likely to pursue self-interest due to associated psychological costs. We conduct a controlled laboratory experiment and show that the insurance advice mechanism significantly increases market efficiency, with sellers being more likely to cooperate with buyers and buyers being more likely to purchase from sellers. Furthermore, we find that the insurance advice mechanism is more effective when sellers observe buyers’ insurance purchase decisions.
    Keywords: asymmetric information, insurance, trust, cooperation, experimental economics
    JEL: C91 D9 D47 D82 L86
    Date: 2022–12
  5. By: Monica Martinez-Bravo (CEMFI, Centro de Estudios Monetarios y Financieros); Carlos Sanz (Banco de España)
    Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic took place against the backdrop of growing political polarization and distrust in political institutions in many countries. Furthermore, most governments fell short of expectations regarding preparedness and quality in the management of the pandemic. Did deficiencies in government performance further erode trust in public institutions? Did citizens’ ideology interfere on the way they processed information on their government performance? To investigate both questions, we conducted a pre-registered online experiment in Spain in November 2020. Respondents in the treatment group were provided information on the number of contact tracers in their region, a key policy under the control of regional governments. We find that individuals greatly over-estimate the number of contact tracers in their region. When we provide the actual number of contact tracers, we find: a decline in trust in governments; a reduction on willingness to fund public institutions; and a decrease in COVID-19 vaccine acceptance. We also find that individuals endogenously change their attribution of responsibilities when receiving the treatment. In regions where the regional and central governments are ruled by different parties, sympathizers of the regional incumbent react to the negative news on performance by attributing greater responsibility for it to the central government. We call this the blame shifting effect. In those regions, the negative information does not translate into lower voting intentions for the regional incumbent government. These results suggest that the exercise of political accountability may be particularly difficult in settings with high political polarization and where areas of responsibility are not clearly delineated.
    Keywords: Trust, accountability, polarization, COVID-19.
    JEL: P00 D72 H1 H7
    Date: 2022–09
  6. By: Amira El-Shal (Cairo University); Eman Moustafa (General Authority for Investment & Free Zones)
    Abstract: Inducing behavior change is a missing factor in the face of viral threats. Using a difference-indifferences fixed-effects strategy, we estimate the effects of government containment, closure, and economic policy responses to COVID-19 on changes in human mobility behavior in 132 countries, while accounting for the disease risk and the public perception of this risk. We also show how social norms, namely risk taking, patience, and trust, can explain the heterogenous effects of policy responses on behavior change. Our estimates indicate that the stringency of containment and closure policies decreases human mobility. Economic policies lead to a less significant decline. Stronger adjustment in the public mobility behavior originates from their risk perception rather than being policy induced. Examining behavioral heterogeneity, we find that risk averse populations and who exhibit more patience pre act and lower their mobility independent of public policies. Economic support triggers negative behavior change in high time-preference settings, where we observe increased mobility, contrary to where populations are more patient. Risk communication elicits positive behavior change among risk-averse and impatient populations, who reduced their mobility. This effect varies by trust in politicians.
    Date: 2021–10–20
  7. By: Burchi, Francesco; Zapata-Román, Gabriela
    Abstract: Inequality is bad per se and has adverse effects, among other things, on economic development and the environment. It is also often argued that high and increasing inequalities put societies under stress, which increases the likelihood of social conflicts. However, the literature on this topic is scarce and some of the conclusions are not adequately supported by empirical evidence. This is mainly because there are different definitions and measurements of social cohesion. Moreover, some definitions of social cohesion incorporate inequality, thus making it impossible to examine how these two phenomena interact with one another. This paper analyses both theoretically and empirically, the relationship between inequality and social cohesion. To do so, it employs a recent definition of social cohesion provided by Leininger et al. (2021). According to this definition, social cohesion is composed of three core attributes, namely trust, inclusive identity and cooperation for the common good. These attributes are examined in two dimensions, namely the horizontal (relationship among individuals) and vertical (relationship between individuals and state institutions) dimensions of social cohesion. [...]
    Keywords: Inequality, Social cohesion, Trust, Cooperation, Identity, Measurement, Social indicators, Correlation, Africa
    Date: 2022
  8. By: Senay Agca; Deniz Igan
    Abstract: We examine the role of political connections in receiving federal funds during an unexpected surge in government defense spending. While the data do not allow identification of a causal link, the analysis uncovers that politically connected firms were awarded larger amounts in federal contracts when available funds increased. Specifically, firms that lobbied received around one third more in the amount of defense contracts compared to those that did not lobby. Similar evidence holds for campaign contributions and board connections. The increase in the amount of contracts obtained is observed primarily for firms that had limited ability to efficiently support Pentagon efforts, and when contracts received less scrutiny. Between political connections and merit-based channels in government contracting, the results mainly, but not exclusively, support the first channel.
    Keywords: Lobbying, Campaign contributions, Board connections, Political connections, Corporate revenue, Government spending, Procurement, Federal contracts
    JEL: D72 G38 H57 H61 P16
    Date: 2022–12
  9. By: Daniele Nosenzo (Aarhus Univeristy, Denmark); Erte Xiao (Department of Economics, Monash University); Nina Xue (Department of Economics, Monash University)
    Abstract: The literature on punishment and prosocial behavior has presented conflicting findings. In some settings, punishment crowds out prosocial behavior and backfires; in others, however, it promotes prosociality. We examine whether the punisher’s motives can help reconcile these results through a novel experiment in which the agent’s outcomes are identical in two environments, but in one punishment is self-serving (i.e., potentially benefits the punisher) while in the other it is other-regarding (i.e., potentially benefits a third party). We find that self-regarding punishment reduces the social stigma of selfish behavior, while other-regarding punishment does not. As a result, self-serving punishment is less effective at encouraging compliance and is more likely to backfire compared to other-regarding punishment. Our findings have implications for the design of punishment mechanisms and highlight the importance of the punisher’s motives in the norm-signalling function of punishment.
    Keywords: punishment, norms, stigma, crowd out, experiment
    JEL: D02
    Date: 2022–12
  10. By: Michel Grabisch (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Antoine Mandel; Agnieszka Rusinowska
    Abstract: We propose a model of the joint evolution of opinions and social relationships in a setting where social influence decays over time. The dynamics are based on bounded confidence: social connections between individuals with distant opinions are severed while new connections are formed between individuals with similar opinions. Our model naturally gives raise to strong diversity, i.e., the persistence of heterogeneous opinions in connected societies, a phenomenon that most existing models fail to capture. The intensity of social interactions is the key parameter that governs the dynamics. First, it determines the asymptotic distribution of opinions. In particular, increasing the intensity of social interactions brings society closer to consensus. Second, it determines the risk of polarization, which is shown to increase with the intensity of social interactions. Our results allow to frame the problem of the design of public debates in a formal setting. We hence characterize the optimal strategy for a social planner who controls the intensity of the public debate and thus faces a trade-off between the pursuit of social consensus and the risk of polarization. We also consider applications to political campaigning and show that both minority and majority candidates can have incentives to lead society towards polarization.
    Keywords: opinion dynamics, network formation, network fragility, polarization, institution design, political campaign
    Date: 2022
  11. By: Michel Grabisch (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Agnieszka Rusinowska; Xavier Venel
    Abstract: We investigate the phenomenon of diffusion in a countably infinite society of individuals interacting with their neighbors in a network. At a given time, each individual is either active or inactive. The diffusion is driven by two characteristics: the network structure and the diffusion mechanism represented by an aggregation function. We distinguish between two diffusion mechanisms (probabilistic, deterministic) and focus on two types of aggregation functions (strict, Boolean). Under strict aggregation functions, polarization of the society cannot happen, and its state evolves towards a mixture of infinitely many active and infinitely many inactive agents, or towards a homogeneous society. Under Boolean aggregation functions, the diffusion process becomes deterministic and the contagion model of Morris (2000) becomes a particular case of our framework. Polarization can then happen. Our dynamics also allows for cycles in both cases. The network structure is not relevant for these questions, but is important for establishing irreducibility, at the price of a richness assumption: the network should contain at least one complex star and have enough space for storing local configurations. Our model can be given a game-theoretic interpretation via a local coordination game, where each player would apply a best-response strategy in a random neighborhood.
    Keywords: diffusion, countable network, aggregation function, polarization, convergence, bestresponse
    Date: 2022

This nep-soc issue is ©2023 by Fabio Sabatini. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, please include this notice.
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