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The Demand for Social Interaction

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  • Henry Saffer

Abstract

In this paper social interaction is modeled as a consumer good. Social interaction may provide an externality in the form of social capital, but the primary reason that individuals engage in social interaction is that these activities directly yield utility. It is important to note that some measures of social interaction show declines while many do not. A model of household production is employed to derive the demand for social interaction. The model shows that the demand for social interaction is a function of its price, the price of other goods and income. The role of children and marriage in social interaction can also be explained in the model. The theory is tested with data from the General Social Survey (GSS) and the results show that social interaction can be explained as the consequence of utility maximizing behavior by individuals. Increases in education generally increase memberships but reduce visiting with relatives and friends. Increases in income generally increase memberships and some forms of visiting. The model predicts 70 percent, or more, of the time trends in social interaction. These results are in contrast to social capital theorists who have focused on the declines in social interaction and who have attributed these changes to factors such as increased community heterogeneity and increased television viewing.

Suggested Citation

  • Henry Saffer, 2005. "The Demand for Social Interaction," NBER Working Papers 11881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11881
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-1093, Nov.-Dec..
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    7. Michael Grossman, 1972. "The Demand for Health: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros72-1, September.
    8. Michael, Robert T, 1973. "Education in Nonmarket Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages 306-327, Part I, M.
    9. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2001. "Understanding the Decline in Social Capital, 1952-1998," NBER Working Papers 8295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Corman, Hope & Noonan, Kelly & Reichman, Nancy E. & Schultz, Jennifer, 2012. "Effects of financial insecurity on social interactions," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 574-583.
    2. Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade, 2008. "Sorting in the Labor Market: Do Gregarious Workers Flock to Interactive Jobs?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
    3. Pian Shu, 2015. "Innovating in Science and Engineering or "Cashing In" on Wall Street? Evidence on Elite STEM Talent," Harvard Business School Working Papers 16-067, Harvard Business School, revised Nov 2016.
    4. Schultz, Jennifer & Corman, Hope & Noonan, Kelly & Reichman, Nancy E., 2009. "Effects of child health on parents' social capital," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 76-84, July.
    5. repec:pri:cepsud:139krueger is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Dhaval Dave & Inas Rashad & Jasmina Spasojevic, 2006. "The Effects of Retirement on Physical and Mental Health Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 12123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Brown, Timothy Tyler, 2009. "Rational praying: The economics of prayer," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 37-44, January.
    8. Jung, Juergen & Manley, James & Shrestha, Vinish, 2021. "Coronavirus infections and deaths by poverty status: The effects of social distancing," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 182(C), pages 311-330.
    9. Henry Saffer & Karine Lamiraud, 2012. "The effect of hours of work on social interaction," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 237-258, June.
    10. Erin Hye-Won Kim & Changjun Lee & Young Kyung Do, 2019. "The Effect of Adult Children’s Working Hours on Visits to Elderly Parents: A Natural Experiment in Korea," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 38(1), pages 53-72, February.
    11. Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade, 2008. "Sorting in the Labor Market: Do Gregarious Workers Flock to Interactive Jobs?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
    12. Zamagni, Stefano, 2006. "L'economia come se la persona contasse: verso una teoria economica relazionale," AICCON Working Papers 32-2006, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.

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    JEL classification:

    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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