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Violence and social capital: Evidence of a microeconomic vicious circle


  • Leonardo Becchetti

    () (University of Rome Tor Vergata)

  • Pierluigi Conzo

    () (University of Rome Tor Vergata & EIEF)

  • Alessandro Romeo

    () (University of Rome Tor Vergata & World Bank)


We test with a randomized experiment in the slums of Nairobi whether violence suffered during the 2007 political outbreaks affects trustworthiness learning when participants live group experiences and face opportunism and free riding in public good games (PGGs) between two subsequent trust games (TGs). Our findings document that participants move toward balanced reciprocity after the PGG with the exception of those who have experienced directly or indirectly physical violence and/or forced relocation who exhibit significantly less trustworthiness in the second TG round. Results are robust to several robustness checks controlling for selection into victimization. Since in a framework of asymmetric information and incomplete contracts, trust games mimic sequential economic exchanges whose functioning is crucial to economic growth, we argue that our results identify a microeconomic nexus among socio-political instability, violence and growth helping to solve identification problems of the cross-country literature on the subject.

Suggested Citation

  • Leonardo Becchetti & Pierluigi Conzo & Alessandro Romeo, 2011. "Violence and social capital: Evidence of a microeconomic vicious circle," Working Papers 197, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  • Handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2011-197

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Keisuke Hirano & Guido W. Imbens & Geert Ridder, 2003. "Efficient Estimation of Average Treatment Effects Using the Estimated Propensity Score," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(4), pages 1161-1189, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stefano Costalli & Luigi Moretti & Costantino Pischedda, 2017. "The economic costs of civil war," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 54(1), pages 80-98, January.
    2. Conzo, Pierluigi & Salustri, Francesco, 2017. "A war is forever: The long-run effects of early exposure to World War II on trust?," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201735, University of Turin.
    3. Pierluigi Conzo, 2014. "Trust and Cheating in Sri Lanka: The Role of Experimentally-Induced Emotions about Tsunam," CSEF Working Papers 355, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy, revised 20 Apr 2015.
    4. Alessandra Cassar & Giovanna d'Adda & Pauline Grosjean, 2014. "Institutional Quality, Culture, and Norms of Cooperation: Evidence from Behavioral Field Experiments," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(3), pages 821-863.
    5. Becchetti, Leonardo & Castriota, Stefano & Conzo, Pierluigi, 2017. "Disaster, Aid, and Preferences: The Long-run Impact of the Tsunami on Giving in Sri Lanka," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 157-173.
    6. Bryan McCannon & Zachary Rodriguez, 2016. "A Lasting Effect of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: Orphans and Pro-Social Behavior," Working Papers 16-10, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    7. Lisa Cook, 2014. "Violence and economic activity: evidence from African American patents, 1870–1940," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 221-257, June.
    8. Sangnier, Marc & Zylberberg, Yanos, 2017. "Protests and trust in the state: Evidence from African countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 55-67.
    9. Alessandra Cassar & Pauline Grosjean & Sam Whitt, 2013. "Legacies of violence: trust and market development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 285-318, September.
    10. Michal Bauer & Christopher Blattman & Julie Chytilová & Joseph Henrich & Edward Miguel & Tamar Mitts, 2016. "Can War Foster Cooperation?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 249-274, Summer.
    11. Paul Frijters, 2001. "Unemployment benefits and educational choices," School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series 099a, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
    12. Werner, Katharina, 2016. "Whom do people trust after a violent conflict? Experimental evidence from Maluku, Indonesia," Passauer Diskussionspapiere, Volkswirtschaftliche Reihe V-73-16, University of Passau, Faculty of Business and Economics.
    13. Max Schaub, 2014. "Solidarity with a sharp edge: Communal conflict and local collective action in rural Nigeria," HiCN Working Papers 183, Households in Conflict Network.
    14. Jennings, Colin & Sanchez-Pages, Santiago, 2017. "Social capital, conflict and welfare," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 157-167.
    15. Colin W. O'Reilly, 2015. "Firm Investment decisions in the post-conflict context," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 23(4), pages 717-751, October.
    16. Chuang, Yating & Schechter, Laura, 2015. "Stability of experimental and survey measures of risk, time, and social preferences: A review and some new results," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 151-170.
    17. Kunte, Sebastian & Wollni, Meike, 2015. "Risky Environments, Hidden Knowledge, and Preferences for Contract Flexibility: An Artefactual Field Experiment," Discussion Papers 205914, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, GlobalFood, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.
    18. Alessandra Cassar & Pauline Grosjean & Sam Whitt, 2011. "Social Cooperation and the Problem of the Conflict Gap: Survey and Experimental Evidence from Post-War Tajikistan," Discussion Papers 2011-15, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    19. Werner, Katharina & Graf Lambsdorff, Johann, 2016. "Emotional numbing and lessons learned after a violent conflict - Experimental evidence from Ambon, Indonesia," Passauer Diskussionspapiere, Volkswirtschaftliche Reihe V-74-16, University of Passau, Faculty of Business and Economics.
    20. Bryan C. McCannon & Colleen Tokar Asaad & Mark Wilson, 2015. "Contracts and Trust," Working Papers 15-15, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.

    More about this item


    trust games; public good games; randomized experiment; social capital; socioeconomic instability and development.;

    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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