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A Model of Social Interactions and Endogenous Poverty Traps

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  • Fryer, Roland

Abstract

This paper develops a model of social interactions and endogenous poverty traps. The key idea is captured in a framework in which the likelihood of future social interactions with members of one's group is partly determined by group-specific investments made by individuals. I prove three main results. First, some individuals expected to make group-specific capital investments are worse off because their observed decision is used as a litmus test of group loyalty — creating a trade-off between human capital and cooperation among the group. Second, there exist equilibria which exhibit bipolar human capital investment behavior by individuals of similar ability. Third, as social mobility increases this bipolarization increases. The model's predictions are consistent with the bifurcation of distinctively black names in the mid-1960s, the erosion of black neighborhoods in the 1970s, accusations of 'acting white', and the efficacy of certain programs designed to encourage human capital acquisition.

Suggested Citation

  • Fryer, Roland, 2007. "A Model of Social Interactions and Endogenous Poverty Traps," Scholarly Articles 2958480, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:2958480
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 767-805.
    2. James Heckman, 2011. "Policies to foster human capital," Educational Studies, Higher School of Economics, issue 3, pages 73-137.
    3. Edward L. Glaeser & David Laibson & Bruce Sacerdote, 2002. "An Economic Approach to Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 437-458, November.
    4. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Culture and Language," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 95-126, December.
    5. George J. Borjas, 1992. "Ethnic Capital and Intergenerational Mobility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 123-150.
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    Cited by:

    1. Roland G. Fryer Jr. & Lisa Kahn & Steven D. Levitt & Jörg L. Spenkuch, 2012. "The Plight of Mixed-Race Adolescents," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(3), pages 621-634, August.
    2. Sourav Bhattacharya & Joyee Deb & Tapas Kundu, 2015. "Mobility and Conflict," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 281-319, February.
    3. repec:eee:pubeco:v:156:y:2017:i:c:p:48-58 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:pit:wpaper:455 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Fryer Jr., Roland G. & Torelli, Paul, 2010. "An empirical analysis of 'acting white'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(5-6), pages 380-396, June.

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