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Filtered Social Learning

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  • Paul Niehaus

Abstract

Knowledge sharing is economically important but also typically incomplete: we "filter" our communication. This paper analyzes the consequences of filtering. In the model, homogeneous agents share knowledge with their peers whenever the private benefits exceed communication costs. The welfare implications of this transmission mechanism hinge on whether units of knowledge complement, substitute for, or are independent of each other. Both substitutability and complementarity generate externalities; cheaper communication eliminates externalities in the former case but not necessarily in the latter. Complementary basic skills such as numeracy catalyze technology adoption, and adoption may be path dependent even when payoffs are certain and independent across agents.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Niehaus, 2011. "Filtered Social Learning," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(4), pages 686-720.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/662627
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Foster, Andrew D & Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1995. "Learning by Doing and Learning from Others: Human Capital and Technical Change in Agriculture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1176-1209, December.
    2. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 815-842.
    3. William A. Brock & Steven N. Durlauf, 2010. "Adoption Curves and Social Interactions," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(1), pages 232-251, March.
    4. Donald M. Topkis, 1978. "Minimizing a Submodular Function on a Lattice," Operations Research, INFORMS, vol. 26(2), pages 305-321, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rema Hanna & Sendhi Mullainathan & Josh Schwartstein, 2012. "Learning Through Noticing: Theory and Experimental Evidence in Farming," CID Working Papers 245, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    2. Rune Dahl Fitjar & Martin Gjelsvik, 2017. "Why do firms collaborate with local universities?," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1732, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Dec 2017.
    3. Couture, Victor, 2015. "Knowledge spillovers in cities: An auction approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 668-698.

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