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The role of social capital in enhancing factor productivity: Does its erosion depress per capita GDP?


  • Bartolini, Stefano
  • Bonatti, Luigi


We aim at reconciling Putnam's claim that social capital has declined in the U.S. in the last decades with the satisfactory growth performance of the U.S. economy over the same period. This puzzle originates from the fact that - according to most literature - social capital enhances factor productivity (mainly by reducing defiant and opportunistic behavior). We model the hypotheses that the expansion of market activities weakens social capital formation, and that society reacts to the decline in social capital by spending more to protect property and enforce contracts. We show that this process may lead to a higher GDP level.

Suggested Citation

  • Bartolini, Stefano & Bonatti, Luigi, 2008. "The role of social capital in enhancing factor productivity: Does its erosion depress per capita GDP?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 1539-1553, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:37:y:2008:i:4:p:1539-1553

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Marcel Fafchamps, 2004. "Social Capital and Development," Economics Series Working Papers 214, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
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    6. Durlauf, Steven N. & Fafchamps, Marcel, 2005. "Social Capital," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 26, pages 1639-1699 Elsevier.
    7. Knack, Stephen, 2003. "Groups, Growth and Trust: Cross-Country Evidence on the Olson and Putnam Hypotheses," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(3-4), pages 341-355, December.
    8. Steven N. Durlauf, 2002. "On the Empirics of Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 459-479, November.
    9. Martin L. Weitzman, 1976. "On the Welfare Significance of National Product in a Dynamic Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(1), pages 156-162.
    10. Jayadev, Arjun & Bowles, Samuel, 2006. "Guard labor," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 328-348, April.
    11. Anil Rupasingha & Stephan J. Goetz & David Freshwater, 2002. "Social and institutional factors as determinants of economic growth: Evidence from the United States counties," Review of Economic Design, Springer;Society for Economic Design, vol. 81(2), pages 139-155, April.
    12. Durlauf, Steven N., 2002. "Bowling Alone: a review essay," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 259-273, March.
    13. Beugelsdijk, Sjoerd & van Schaik, Ton, 2005. "Social capital and growth in European regions: an empirical test," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 301-324, June.
    14. Jane Kolodinsky & Garret Kimberly & Jonathan Isham, 2003. "The Effects of Volunteering for Non-profit Organizations on Social Capital Formation: Evidence from a Statewide Survey," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0305, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
    15. Annen, Kurt, 2003. "Social capital, inclusive networks, and economic performance," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 449-463, April.
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    17. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2003. "Understanding the American Decline in Social Capital, 1952--1998," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(1), pages 17-46, February.
    18. Sjoerd Beugelsdijk & Henri L.F. de Groot & Anton B.T.M. van Schaik, 2004. "Trust and economic growth: a robustness analysis," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(1), pages 118-134, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stefan D. Josten, 2013. "Middle-Class Consensus, Social Capital And The Fundamental Causes Of Economic Growth And Development," Journal of Economic Development, Chung-Ang Unviersity, Department of Economics, vol. 38(1), pages 1-26, March.
    2. Karlsson, Charlie & Rouchy, Philippe, 2015. "Regional Economic Development, Social Capital and Governance: A Buchanian Approach," Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation 390, Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies.
    3. Sabatini, Fabio, 2009. "Social capital as social networks: A new framework for measurement and an empirical analysis of its determinants and consequences," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 429-442, June.
    4. Fabio Sabatini, 2008. "Social Capital and the Quality of Economic Development," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 466-499, August.

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