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Microfoundations of Social Capital

  • Christian Thöni

    (University of St. Gallen)

  • Jean-Robert Tyran

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

  • Erik Wengström

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

We show that the standard trust question routinely used in social capital research is importantly related to cooperation behavior and we provide a microfoundation for this relation. We run a large-scale public goods experiment over the internet in Denmark and find that the trust question is a proxy for cooperation preferences rather than beliefs about others’ cooperation. To disentangle the preference and belief channels, we run a (standard) public goods game in which beliefs matter for cooperation choices and one (using the strategy method) in which they do not matter. We show that the “fairness question”, a recently proposed alternative to the “trust question”, is also related to cooperation behavior but operates through beliefs rather than preferences.

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Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 09-24.

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Length: 21 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2009
Date of revision: Sep 2010
Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:0924
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