nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2023‒12‒04
eleven papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini, Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”

  1. Ambiguity induces opportunistic rule breaking and erodes social norms By Lucas Molleman; Daniele Nosenzo; Tina Venema
  2. You'll never walk alone: Unemployment, social networks and leisure activities By Filomena, Mattia; Picchio, Matteo
  3. Social Capital: Experimental Validation of Survey Measures By Ivàn José Barreda Tarrazona; Agnès Festré; Stein Østbye
  4. Decomposing Trust By Dirk Engelmann; Jana Friedrichsen; Roel van Veldhuizen; Pauline Vorjohann; Joachim Winter
  5. Blame or gain? Is institutional trust impacted by the perception of political influence in state-owned enterprises? By Krause, Tobias Alexander; Ivanov, Igor; Sidki, Marcus
  6. The Persistent Effect of Competition on Prosociality By Fabian Kosse; Ranjita Rajan; Michela Tincani
  7. Politicians, Trust, Financial Literacy and Financial Education: When Do Politicians Care? By Donato Masciandaro
  8. Can Social Pressure Stifle Free Speech By Juan S. Morales, Margaret Samahita
  9. The Role of Child Gender in the Formation of Parents’ Social Networks By Aristide Houndetoungan; Asad Islam; Michael Vlassopoulos; Yves Zenou
  10. How WEIRD are student samples? Lessons based on the trust game in Malawi By Holden, Stein T.; Tione, Sarah; Tilahun, Mesfin; Katengeza, Samson
  11. Occupational Trajectories Among Refugees in Austria: The Role of Co-ethnic and Austrian Social Networks in Job Search By Sandra M. Leitner

  1. By: Lucas Molleman (Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, and Social Psychology, Tilburg University); Daniele Nosenzo (Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University); Tina Venema (Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University)
    Abstract: Rules are central to social order, but violations can rapidly spread when compliance is costly to individuals. Moreover, rules are often ambiguous and open to interpretation, creating “wiggle room" to bend rules in self-serving ways. It is currently unknown how ambiguity shapes rule compliance and the sway of social influence. Here we present incentivized experiments (total n=3, 226 American Prolific workers) showing that ambiguity substantially reduces rule compliance. Observing rule bending or a rule violation reduces compliance, but observing compliance does not increase it. The combined effect of ambiguity and bad examples is as strong as the effect of either factor on its own, indicating that many people comply unless an opportunity arises for self-serving rule violation. Further experiments suggest that these results are due to weakened social norms: ambiguity reduces disapproval of rule bending, and people expect violations to increase after observing non-compliance.
    Keywords: Rule-following, peer effects, conditional compliance, behavioral experiment, social influence
    JEL: C91 C92 D91
    Date: 2023–11–14
  2. By: Filomena, Mattia; Picchio, Matteo
    Abstract: We analyse how unemployment affects individuals' social networks, leisure activities, and the related satisfaction measures. Using the LISS panel, a representative longitudinal survey of the Dutch population, we estimate the effects by inverse propensity score weighting in a difference-in-differences design in order to deal with unobserved heterogeneity and unbalanced covariate distribution between treated and control units potentially associated with the dynamics of the outcome variables. We find that, after job loss, individuals increase their network size by strengthening their closest contacts within the family, spending more time with neighbors, and making more use of social media. Although they devote their extra leisure time mostly to private activities, our results do not support the hypothesis of social exclusion following unemployment.
    Keywords: Unemployment, job loss, social exclusion, leisure, social satisfaction, doubly robust difference-in-differences
    JEL: I31 J01 J64
    Date: 2023
  3. By: Ivàn José Barreda Tarrazona (Universitat Jaume I de Castelló, Spain); Agnès Festré (Université Côte d'Azur, France; GREDEG CNRS); Stein Østbye (University of Tromsø, Norway)
    Abstract: The social fabric, generally recognized as essential for economic and social transactions, is often referred to as Social Capital (SC). In this paper, we explore to what extent inexpensive attitudinal survey data can be a substitute for more expensive experimental data as a metric of SC, using a cross-country design. We use data from two standard subject pools (located in Spain and France) and a mixed-method approach in the sense of presenting validated attitudinal survey questions from the SC section of the latest wave of World Values Survey (WVS) to our participants, in addition to games for eliciting SC through actions and beliefs. Our data can be compared to publicly available WVS data at the relevant regional level as well as the national level. The main takeaway from our study is that SC measured by survey items consistently is higher in Spain than in France regardless of item and spatial resolution (nation, region, lab), whereas SC measured by choices and beliefs in incentivised games consistently is higher in France. This may confirm that there is reason for scepticism concerning the validity of survey measures in the context of social capital, not least since we, as opposed to in earlier studies, have data on group specific items used in the latest wave of WVS pertaining to trust in personal relations as well as more distant relations, all consistently pointing in the same direction regardless of spatial resolution. In this version of the paper we are concentrating on aggregates. Work remain to be done on the individual level.
    Keywords: social capital, mixed-method, cross-cultural, lab experiments
    JEL: Q12 C22 D81
    Date: 2023–06
  4. By: Dirk Engelmann (HU Berlin); Jana Friedrichsen (Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel); Roel van Veldhuizen (Lund University); Pauline Vorjohann (University of Exeter); Joachim Winter (LMU Munich)
    Abstract: Trust is an important condition for economic growth and other economic outcomes. Previous studies suggest that the decision to trust is driven by a combination of risk attitudes, distributional preferences, betrayal aversion, and beliefs about the probability of being reciprocated. We compare the results of a binary trust game to the results of a series of control treatments that by design remove the effect of one or more of these components of trust. This allows us to decompose variation in trust behavior into its underlying factors. Our results imply that beliefs are a key driver of trust, and that the additional components only play a role when beliefs about reciprocity are sufficiently optimistic. Our decomposition approach can be applied to other settings where multiple factors that are not mutually independent affect behavior. We discuss its advantages over the more traditional approach of controlling for measures of relevant factors derived from separate tasks in regressions, in particular with respect to measurement error and omitted variable bias.
    Keywords: trust; omitted-variable bias; measurement error;
    JEL: C90 D90
    Date: 2023–11–16
  5. By: Krause, Tobias Alexander; Ivanov, Igor; Sidki, Marcus
    Abstract: Investigating institutional trust has a strong tradition in public administration research (Bouckaert and Van de Walle 2003; Van de Walle et al. 2008; Grimmelikhuijsen et al. 2013). Blame attribution theory suggests that citizens may blame politicians for serious distrust in public service providers, however there is only scarce evidence with respect to municipally owned corporations in a private law context (Bisgaard 2015; Van den Bekerom et al. 2021). Considering a large-scale survey experiment on 2, 023 German citizens, we investigated whether citizen trust in local energy providers is affected by perceptions of political influence. Evidence suggests that there is a small bias effect of perceived influence, however this effect contradicts with the blame attribution hypothesis. We find that citizens are much more positive towards direct political influence than predicted.
    Abstract: Die Untersuchung von institutionellem Vertrauen hat eine lange Tradition in der Forschung zur öffentlichen Verwaltung (Bouckaert und Van de Walle 2003; Van de Walle et al. 2008; Grimmelikhuijsen et al. 2013). Die Theorie der Schuldzuweisung legt nahe, dass Bürgerinnen und Bürger Politikerinnen und Politikern die Schuld für ernsthaftes Misstrauen gegenüber öffentlichen Dienstleistungsanbietern geben könnten, allerdings gibt es nur wenig Belege für kommunale Unternehmen in einem privatrechtlichen Kontext (Bisgaard 2015; Van den Bekerom et al. 2021). Anhand eines groß angelegten Umfrageexperiments mit 2.023 deutschen Bürger:innen haben wir untersucht, ob institutionelles Vertrauen der Bürger:innen in lokale Energieversorger durch die Wahrnehmung des politischen Einflusses tangiert wird. Die Ergebnisse deuten darauf hin, dass es einen kleinen Verzerrungseffekt des wahrgenommenen Einflusses gibt, der jedoch im Widerspruch zur Hypothese der Schuldzuweisung steht. Wir stellen fest, dass die Bürger:innen dem direkten politischen Einfluss gegenüber viel positiver eingestellt sind als vermutet.
    Date: 2023
  6. By: Fabian Kosse (LMU Munich); Ranjita Rajan (The Karta Initiative); Michela Tincani (University College London)
    Abstract: We present the first causal evidence on the persistent impact of enduring competition on prosociality. Inspired by the literature on tournaments within firms, which shows that competitive compensation schemes reduce cooperation in the short-run, we explore if enduring exposure to a competitive environment persistently attenuates prosociality. Based on a large-scale randomized intervention in the education context, we find lower levels of prosociality for students who just experienced a 2-year competition period. 4-year follow-up data indicate that the effect persists and generalizes, suggesting a change in traits and not only in behavior.
    Keywords: prosociality, competition, cooperation, social skills, socio-emotional skills, tournaments, comparative pay, incentive schemes
    JEL: D74 D91 J13 J24
    Date: 2023–11
  7. By: Donato Masciandaro
    Abstract: Politicians can be more or less active in pursuing financial education policies in order to strength the financial literacy of the citizens, and consequently their trust. This paper explores the role of financial education policy in modifying the financial-trust endowment of a given population taking the political cost-benefit analysis into account. As, in any period, each incumbent government can design and implement its own financial education policy and as financial-literacy deficits are more likely in a period of financial innovation, we assume that constituencies more or l ess in favour of such policies are present in a given country. If this is the case, we can show that, in a democracy with political competition, the level of activism in implementing financial education policies is positively associated with financial-instability risks, literacy benefits, and illiteracy costs. Moreover, preferences and constraints motivate the politician in charge. More specifically, a more longer time horizons, lower psychological attitudes towards the status quo, and a higher probability of re-election can increase financial-literacy efforts.
    Keywords: financial literacy, financial education, financial trust, fintech, financial crisis, loss aversion, political competition
    JEL: D72 G28 G53 H10 K00
    Date: 2023
  8. By: Juan S. Morales, Margaret Samahita (Wilfrid Laurier University)
    Abstract: This paper studies public opinion in the context of strong social norms that can induce conformity and self-censorship. We present a model that highlights how social pressure can affect the public expression of opinion either through a change in publicly stated views (conformity) or by inducing self-censorship (silence). In a series of pre-registered online experiments in the US, we elicit participants’ views on two controversial topics (race and gender) and their willingness to publish these views online in an incentivized manner. The empirical patterns are consistent with the presence of ideologically left-wing social norms: participants who held left-wing views were more willing to publish their opinions, and those who were randomly made aware of the prospect of publication reported less conservative views. A priming information treatment, in which participants were informed about cancel culture and the potential negative backlash from social media posts, induced some conformity and silencing, but the results were generally weak and not statistically significant. Finally, a social information treatment, which informed respondents about high rates of others’ willingness to speak up, significantly decreased self-censorship. We use our theoretical model, and empirical estimates from the experiment about the value of "speaking up", to analyze potential welfare implications. The analysis reveals that social norms which restrict freedom of expression may enhance social welfare.
    Keywords: social media; spiral of silence; public opinion; cancel culture; free speech
    JEL: D83 P16 C90 Z13
    Date: 2023–08
  9. By: Aristide Houndetoungan (Department of Economics, Thema, Cy Cergy Paris Université); Asad Islam (Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability (CDES) and Department of Economics, Monash University, and J-PAL); Michael Vlassopoulos (Economics Department, Social Sciences, University of Southampton, and IZA.); Yves Zenou (Department of Economics, Monash University, CEPR, and IZA)
    Abstract: Social networks play an important role in various aspects of life. While extensive research has explored factors such as gender, race, and education in network formation, one dimension that has received less attention is the gender of one’s child. Children tend to form friendships with same gender peers, potentially leading their parents to interact based on their child’s gender. Focusing on households with children aged 3-5, we leverage a rich dataset from rural Bangladesh to investigate the role of children’s gender in parental network formation. We estimate an equilibrium model of network formation that considers a child’s gender alongside other socioeconomic factors. Counterfactual analyses reveal that children’s gender significantly shapes parents’ network structure. Specifically, if all children share the same gender, households would have approximately 15% more links, with a stronger effect for families having girls. Importantly, the impact of children’s gender on network structure is on par with or even surpasses that of factors such as income distribution, parental occupation, education, and age. These findings carry implications for debates surrounding coed versus single-sex schools, as well as policies that foster inter-gender social interactions among children.
    Keywords: Social networks, early childhood, network formation, gender
    JEL: C57 D85 J16 O12
    Date: 2023–11
  10. By: Holden, Stein T. (Centre for Land Tenure Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences); Tione, Sarah (Centre for Land Tenure Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences); Tilahun, Mesfin (Centre for Land Tenure Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences); Katengeza, Samson (Centre for Land Tenure Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences)
    Abstract: We have used the standard trust game on a random sample of university students (N=764) and a random sample of rural residents (N=834) in Malawi. The study identifies social preference types (Bauer, Chytilov´a, & Pertold-Gebicka, 2014; Fehr, Gl¨atzle-R¨utzler, & Sutter, 2013) and how these relate to variations in trust and trustworthiness based on the standard trust game (Berg, Dickhaut, & McCabe, 1995). The games are framed as within-class and within-university for students and as within-village and within-district for the rural sample. Many previous studies have found students to represent a lower bound in experimental studies of pro-social, trust, and trustworthiness behavior compared to broader population samples. Contrary to this, we found that trust and trustworthiness were significantly higher among university students than among villagers in rural communities in Malawi. We decomposed the trust and trustworthiness to investigate the relative importance of alternative explanations for their variation and to explain the unexpected gap in trust and trustworthiness between the student and rural samples. We were able to explain most of the gap for trustworthiness and about half of the gap for trust. Factors contributing significantly to the variation in trustworthiness were social preference type, reciprocity norm, age, and gender. Trust and trustworthiness varied systematically across social preference types. Altruistic and egalitarian types were more common among the students than in the rural population, and the students also demonstrated stronger moral obligations to reciprocate in the game. On average, students and rural respondents were too optimistic about the expected returns in the trust game; students were more optimistic than rural subjects on average, and expectations influenced trust investments. Risk tolerance also enhanced trust investments; students were slightly more risk tolerant than rural subjects. Women were found to be less trusting and less trustworthy than men, and there was a larger share of women in the rural sample. There were only modest gains in trust and trustworthiness in the within-class vs. within-university and the within-village vs. within-district frames.
    Keywords: Social preferences; Trust; Trustworthiness; university students; rural subjects; Malawi
    JEL: C72 C92 C93 D01 D90
    Date: 2023–11–11
  11. By: Sandra M. Leitner (The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw)
    Abstract: This paper analyses occupational trajectories of refugees from their last job in the home country to their first and current jobs in Austria and the role of co-ethnic and Austrian social networks in job search, using data from a large-scale survey of recognised refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran who have predominantly come to Austria since 2010, thereby covering the strong refugee wave of 2015 2016. The results corroborate a U-shaped pattern, with a sharp initial occupational loss followed by a rather moderate occupational recovery. Although native social networks play no role for occupational changes, co-ethnic social networks – particularly when used as a stand-alone job search strategy – prove detrimental along the entire trajectory. However, co-ethnic social networks are beneficial if used in combination with the Austrian labour market service or NGOs. Some refugees prove particularly vulnerable, such as older refugees or highly educated refugees who undergo more pronounced initial occupational downgrading, with subsequent occupational upgrading either limited or absent.
    Keywords: Refugees, labour market integration, occupational trajectories, social capital
    JEL: J15 J24 J62
    Date: 2023–11

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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