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Changing Identity: The Emergence of Social Groups

Author

Listed:
  • Ulrich Horst

    (University of British Columbia)

  • Alan Kirman

    (GREQAM, EHESS, Universite Aix-Marseille III, IUF)

  • Miriam Teschl

    (College, University of Cambridge)

Abstract

The original Homo Economicus has progressed from an atomistic and self-interested individual to a socially embedded agent in modern economics. In particular, social interaction models suggest that the individual’s own utility of undertaking an action may be influenced by the number of peers taking this same action. Hence, people gain by conforming to, or differentiating their behaviour from that of others. A number of papers have also suggested why people want to conform. In particular, Akerlof and Kranton (2000, 2002, 2005) suggest that people belong to certain groups and wish to adopt the corresponding social identity by behaving according to the behavioural prescriptions of these groups. In this paper, we present a social interaction model that is based on a different account of identity. The concept of identity used here is on a more personal level and suggests that people have desired self-images of themselves that they wish to attain at some time in the future. Hence, individuals aim to transform their current individual characteristics into those of their self-image. They try to achieve this by joining social groups and adopting the typical characteristics of these groups. However, groups will be modified over time by the people joining them. This may induce individuals to revise their previous choices and eventually to move on and to choose different groups. The model thus presents an endogeneous interaction structure and offers an account of endogenous group formation as well as an endogenous evolution of personal identity. We further study in what sense and under what conditions the dynamics at the individual and at the social level will reach an “equilibrium” and what the nature of such an equilibrium is.

Suggested Citation

  • Ulrich Horst & Alan Kirman & Miriam Teschl, 2007. "Changing Identity: The Emergence of Social Groups," Economics Working Papers 0078, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:ads:wpaper:0078
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Horst, Ulrich & Scheinkman, Jose A., 2006. "Equilibria in systems of social interactions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 130(1), pages 44-77, September.
    2. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2005. "Identity and the Economics of Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 9-32, Winter.
    3. Alan Kirman & Miriam Teschl, 2006. "Searching for identity in the capability space," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(3), pages 299-325.
    4. Sen, Amartya K, 1973. "Behaviour and the Concept of Preference," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 40(159), pages 241-259, August.
    5. Gintis, Herbert, 1974. "Welfare Criteria with Endogenous Preferences: The Economics of Education," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 15(2), pages 415-430, June.
    6. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-877, October.
    7. Robert J. Oxoby, 2004. "Cognitive dissonance, status and growth of the underclass," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(498), pages 727-749, October.
    8. George A. Akerlof, 1997. "Social Distance and Social Decisions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1005-1028, September.
    9. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    10. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2002. "Identity and Schooling: Some Lessons for the Economics of Education," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1167-1201, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Afridi, Farzana & Li, Sherry Xin & Ren, Yufei, 2015. "Social identity and inequality: The impact of China's hukou system," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 17-29.
    2. Ballet, Jérôme & Marchand, Lucile & Pelenc, Jérôme & Vos, Robin, 2018. "Capabilities, Identity, Aspirations and Ecosystem Services: An Integrated Framework," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 21-28.
    3. Maria D. C. Garcia-Alonso & Zaki Wahhaj, 2018. "Social Diversity and Bridging Identity," Studies in Economics 1802, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    4. Bisin, Alberto & Patacchini, Eleonora & Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2011. "Formation and persistence of oppositional identities," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(8), pages 1046-1071.
    5. Fernando Aguiar & Pablo Branas-Garza & Maria Paz Espinosa & Luis Miller, 2010. "Personal identity: a theoretical and experimental analysis," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(3), pages 261-275.
    6. Naseer, Shaheen & Heine, Klaus, 2017. "Bureaucratic Identity and the Shape of Public Policy: A Game Theoretic Analysis," VfS Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168144, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2007. "Identity, Dignity and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets," CEPR Discussion Papers 6123, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Hassani Mahmooei, Behrooz & Vahabi, Mehrdad, 2012. "Dueling for honor and identity economics," MPRA Paper 44370, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Pecchenino, Rowena A., 2009. "Becoming: Identity and spirituality," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 31-36, January.
    10. Thomas Jeitschko & Seamus O'Connell & Rowena Pecchenino, 2008. "Generalised Means of Simple Utility Functions with Risk Aversion," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 39(1), pages 39-54.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic agent; social interaction; conformity; personal identity; self-image; change;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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