nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2023‒11‒20
six papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini, Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”

  1. The Social Side of Early Human Capital Formation: Using a Field Experiment to Estimate the Causal Impact of Neighborhoods By John List; Fatemeh Momeni; Michael Vlassopoulos; Yves Zenou
  2. Scars of war: the legacy of WW1 deaths on civic capital and combat motivation By Felipe Carozzi; Edward W. Pinchbeck; Luca Repetto
  3. Life-Cycle Effects of Comprehensive Sex Education By Volha Lazuka; Annika Elwert
  4. Norms of Corruption in Politicians’ Malfeasance By Gustavo J. Bobonis; Anke Kessler; Xin Zhao
  5. Bound by Borders: Voter Mobilization through Social Networks By Gary W. Cox; Jon H. Fiva; Max-Emil M. King
  6. Shots Fired: Crime and Community Engagement with Law Enforcement after High-profile Acts of Police Violence By Desmond Ang; Panka Bencsik; Jesse Bruhn; Ellora Derenoncourt

  1. By: John List; Fatemeh Momeni; Michael Vlassopoulos; Yves Zenou
    Abstract: This study explores the role of neighborhoods on human capital formation at an early age. We do so by estimating the spillover effects of an early childhood intervention on the educational attainment of a large sample of disadvantaged children in the United States. We document large spillover effects on the cognitive skills of children living near treated children, which amount to approximately 40% of the direct treatment effects. Interestingly, these spillover effects are localized and decrease with the spatial distance to treated neighbors. We do not find evidence of spillover effects on non-cognitive skills. Perhaps our most novel insight is the underlying mechanisms at work: the spillover effect on cognitive scores is very localized and seems to operate through the child's social network, mostly between treated kids. We do not find evidence that parents' or children's social networks are effective for non-cognitive skills. Overall, our results reveal the importance of public programs and neighborhoods on human capital formation at an early age, highlighting that human capital accumulation is fundamentally a social activity.
    Date: 2023
  2. By: Felipe Carozzi; Edward W. Pinchbeck; Luca Repetto
    Abstract: What drives soldiers to risk their life in combat? We show that the legacy of war creates lasting conditions that encourage younger generations to take greater risks when fighting for their country. Using individual-level data from over 4 million British war records, we show that WWI deaths deeply affected local communities and the behaviour of the next generation of soldiers. Servicemen from localities that suffered heavier losses in WWI were more likely to die or to be awarded military honours for bravery in WW2. To explain these findings, we document that WWI deaths promoted civic capital in the inter-war period - as demonstrated by the creation of lasting war memorials, veterans' associations and charities, and increased voter participation. In addition, we show that sons of soldiers killed in WWI were more likely to die in combat, suggesting that both community-level and family-level transmission of values were important in this context.
    Keywords: world war, combat motivation, conflict, civic capital, memory
    Date: 2023–08–01
  3. By: Volha Lazuka; Annika Elwert
    Abstract: Sex education can impact pupils sexual activity and convey the social norms regarding family formation and responsibility, which can have significant consequences to their future. To investigate the life-cycle effects of social norm transmission, this study drew on the introduction of comprehensive sex education in the curriculum of Swedish primary schools during the 1940s to the 1950s. Inspired by social-democratic values, sex education during this period taught students about abstinence, rational family planning choices, and the importance of taking social responsibility for their personal decisions. The study applied a state-of-the-art estimator of the difference-in-differences method to various outcomes of men and women throughout the life cycle. The results showed that the reform affected most intended outcomes for men and women, ultimately decreasing gender inequality in earnings. The effects of the reform also extended to the succeding generation of girls, encouraging them to choose a profession with prosocial responsibilities and engage in entrepreneurship. The findings suggest that social norms, internalized through school-based sex education, shape lifetime outcomes of individuals and their children in significant ways.
    Date: 2023–10
  4. By: Gustavo J. Bobonis; Anke Kessler; Xin Zhao
    Abstract: To what extent can audits serve to limit patronage and corrupt networks effectively and sustainably in clientelist societies with a prevailing norm of corruption? We develop a political agency model in which office holders are motivated to reduce rent seeking behavior through re-election incentives operating via elections and audits (formal institutions), but also through reputational concerns that are influenced by the prevailing norm on corruption in their peer group (informal institutions). We show that, while the formal institutions of audits and elections have the desired direct effect of reducing corruption, they also affect informal rules of conduct, which can have unintended effects. We then apply this theoretical framework to evidence from Puerto Rico’s anti-corruption municipal audits program over the period 1987-2014, and argue that the interaction of elections, audits, and norms can help explain a peculiar pattern in the data. Using a quasi-experimental design based on the exogenous timing of audits relative to elections, we find that mayors respond positively to audits in their own community, but negatively to audits - and the corresponding reduction in corruption - in neighboring municipalities. Our estimates suggest a large negative spillover effect: communities where two-thirds of adjacent jurisdictions undergo a (timely) audit experience a 30 percent increase in reported corruption levels.
    Keywords: corruption; rent-seeking; public sector accounting and audits; social norms; institutional arrangements
    JEL: D72 H83 K42 O17
    Date: 2023–10–31
  5. By: Gary W. Cox; Jon H. Fiva; Max-Emil M. King
    Abstract: A vast and growing quantitative literature considers how social networks shape political mobilization but the degree to which turnout decisions are strategic remains ambiguous. Unlike previous studies, we establish personal links between voters and candidates and exploit discontinuous incentives to mobilize across district boundaries to estimate causal effects. Considering three types of network—families, co-workers, and immigrant communities—we show that a group member’s candidacy acts as a mobilizational impulse that propagates through the group’s network. In family networks, some of this impulse is non-strategic, surviving past district boundaries. However, the bulk of family mobilization is bound by the candidate’s district boundary, as is the entirety of the mobilizational effects in the other networks.
    Keywords: political participation, social networks, electoral geography
    JEL: D72 D85 C33
    Date: 2023
  6. By: Desmond Ang (Harvard University); Panka Bencsik (Vanderbilt University); Jesse Bruhn (Brown University); Ellora Derenoncourt (Princeton University and NBER)
    Abstract: How does police violence affect civilian engagement with law-enforcement? We document a sharp rise in gunshots coupled with declining 911 call volume across thirteen major US cities in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. This pattern occurs in both white and non-white neighborhoods, is not driven by ceiling effects in crime reporting, persists beyond the protest movement, and is not accompanied by large declines in police response times. We find similar declines in reporting after the murder of Michael Brown, but not for other, less nationally salient police murders. Trends in national survey data reveal that police favorability also declined sharply after George Floyd’s murder, and that victims of crime became less likely to report their victimization due to fear of police harassment. Our results suggest that high profile acts of police violence may erode a key input into effective public safety, civilian crime reporting, and highlight the call-to-shot ratio as a natural measure of community engagement with law-enforcement.
    Keywords: police, crime reporting, use of force, race
    JEL: K4
    Date: 2023–07

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