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A Theory of Community Formation and Social Hierarchy

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  • Athey, Susan

    (Stanford University)

  • Calvano, Emilio

    (Bologna University)

  • Jha, Saumitra

    (Stanford University)

Abstract

We analyze the classic problem of sustaining trust when cheating and leaving trading partners is easy, and outside enforcement is difficult. We construct equilibria where individuals are loyal to smaller groups--communities--that allow repeated interaction. Hierarchies provide incentives for loyalty and allow individuals to trust agents to extent that the agents are actually trustworthy. We contrast these with other plausible institutions for engendering loyalty that require inefficient withholding of trust to support group norms, and are not robust to coalitional deviations. In communities whose members randomly match, we show that social mobility within hierarchies falls as temptations to cheat rise. In communities where individuals can concentrate their trading with pre-selected members, hierarchies where senior members are favored for trade sustain trust even in the presence of proximate nonhierarchical communities. We link these results to the emergence of trust in new market environments and early human societies.

Suggested Citation

  • Athey, Susan & Calvano, Emilio & Jha, Saumitra, 2016. "A Theory of Community Formation and Social Hierarchy," Research Papers 3467, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:3467
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    1. Mayshary, Joram & Moav, Omer & Neeman, Zvika & Pascali, Luigi, 2015. "Cereals Appropriability and Hierarchy," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 238, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    2. Parikshit Ghosh & Debraj Ray, 1996. "Cooperation in Community Interaction Without Information Flows," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(3), pages 491-519.
    3. Michael T. Hannan & László Pólos & Glenn R. Carroll, 2007. "Language Matters, from Logics of Organization Theory: Audiences, Codes, and Ecologies," Introductory Chapters,in: Logics of Organization Theory: Audiences, Codes, and Ecologies Princeton University Press.
    4. Eric Van den Steen, 2010. "On the origin of shared beliefs (and corporate culture)," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 41(4), pages 617-648, December.
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