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Toward an Economic Theory of Dysfunctional Identity

Author

Listed:
  • Hanming Fang

    () (Department of Economics, Yale University)

  • Glenn C. Loury

    () (Institute for Economic Development, Boston University)

Abstract

We advance a novel choice-theoretic model of “identity” based on the notions of categories and narratives. Identity is conceived as a matter of “reflexive perception” — how people understand themselves. Choosing an identity is equivalent to making a generalization about one’s past that highlights the most salient aspects of experience. When many individuals make a common choice in this regard, they embrace a collective identity which is dysfunctional if it is Pareto dominated by an alternative self-classificatory schema. Using a simple multi-stage risk sharing game, we explore conditions under which dysfunctional collective identities might be expected to emerge.

Suggested Citation

  • Hanming Fang & Glenn C. Loury, 2004. "Toward an Economic Theory of Dysfunctional Identity," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-146, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bos:iedwpr:dp-146
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    File URL: http://www.bu.edu/econ/ied/dp/papers/dp146-.Loury.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-877, October.
    3. Roland G. Fryer & Matthew O. Jackson, 2002. "Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making," Microeconomics 0211002, EconWPA.
    4. George A. Akerlof, 1997. "Social Distance and Social Decisions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1005-1028, September.
    5. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    6. Justine Burns, 2004. "Race and trust in post-apartheid South Africa," SALDRU/CSSR Working Papers 078, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    7. Benoit, Jean-Pierre & Krishna, Vijay, 1985. "Finitely Repeated Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(4), pages 905-922, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    Cited by:

    1. Bernard, Tanguy & Dercon, Stefan & Taffesse, Alemayehu Seyoum, 2011. "Beyond fatalism: An empirical exploration of self-efficacy and aspirations failure in Ethiopia," IFPRI discussion papers 1101, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Hanming Fang & Glenn C. Loury, 2005. ""Dysfunctional Identities" Can Be Rational," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 104-111, May.
    3. Tewodaj Mogues & Michael Carter, 2005. "Social capital and the reproduction of economic inequality in polarized societies," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 3(3), pages 193-219, December.
    4. Brock,W.A. & Durlauf,S.N., 2005. "Social interactions and macroeconomics," Working papers 5, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Identity: dysfunctional collective identity;

    JEL classification:

    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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