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Microfoundations of Social Capital

  • Christian Thöni
  • Jean-Robert Tyran
  • Erik Wengström

We show that the standard trust question routinely used in social capital research is importantly related to cooperation behavior and we provide evidence on the microfoundation of this relation. We run a large-scale public goods experiment over the internet in Denmark using a design that enables us to disentangle preferences for cooperation from beliefs about others’ cooperation. We find that the standard trust question is a proxy for cooperation preferences rather than beliefs about others’ cooperation. Moreover, we show that the “fairness question”, a recently proposed alternative to the standard trust question, is also related to cooperation behavior but operates through beliefs rather than preferences.

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Paper provided by The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series NRN working papers with number 2010-19.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:jku:nrnwps:2010_19
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Phone: +43-732-2468-8216
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