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Social Networks as Contract Enforcement: Evidence from a Lab Experiment in the Field

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  • Arun G. Chandrasekhar
  • Cynthia Kinnan
  • Horacio Larreguy

Abstract

Absence of well-functioning formal institutions leads to reliance on social networks to enforce informal contracts. Social ties may aid cooperation, but agents vary in network centrality, and this hierarchy may hinder cooperation. To assess the extent to which networks substitute for enforcement, we conducted high-stakes games across 34 Indian villages. We randomized subjects' partners and whether contracts were enforced to estimate how partners' relative network position differentially matters across contracting environments. Socially close pairs cooperate even without enforcement; distant pairs do not. Pairs with unequal importance behave less cooperatively without enforcement. Thus capacity for cooperation depends on the underlying network.

Suggested Citation

  • Arun G. Chandrasekhar & Cynthia Kinnan & Horacio Larreguy, 2014. "Social Networks as Contract Enforcement: Evidence from a Lab Experiment in the Field," NBER Working Papers 20259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20259
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Matthew O. Jackson & Tomas Rodriguez-Barraquer & Xu Tan, 2012. "Social Capital and Social Quilts: Network Patterns of Favor Exchange," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 1857-1897, August.
    7. Abigail Barr & Marleen Dekker & Marcel Fafchamps, 2012. "Who Shares Risk with Whom under Different Enforcement Mechanisms?," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(4), pages 677-706.
    8. A. Mushfiq Mobarak & Mark Rosenzweig, 2012. "Selling Formal Insurance to the Informally Insured," Working Papers id:4777, eSocialSciences.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Joshua Evan Blumenstock & Nathan Eagle & Marcel Fafchamps, 2011. "Risk and Reciprocity Over the Mobile Phone Network: Evidence from Rwanda," Working Papers 11-25, NET Institute, revised Sep 2011.
    2. Abhijit Banerjee & Arun G. Chandrasekhar & Esther Duflo & Matthew O. Jackson, 2012. "The Diffusion of Microfinance," NBER Working Papers 17743, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Brune, Lasse & Gine, Xavier & Goldberg, Jessica & Yang, Dean, 2011. "Commitments to save : a field experiment in rural Malawi," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5748, The World Bank.
    4. Dean Karlan & Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan & Jonathan Zinman, 2014. "Savings by and for the Poor: A Research Review and Agenda," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(1), pages 36-78, March.
    5. Jonathan Robinson, 2012. "Limited Insurance within the Household: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 140-164, October.
    6. Binzel, Christine & Fehr, Dietmar, 2013. "Giving and sorting among friends: Evidence from a lab-in-the-field experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(2), pages 214-217.
    7. Vera Mironova & Egor Lazarev, 2013. "Minority Status and Investment: Evidence from Natural and Lab Experiments in Bosnia and Herzegovina1," HiCN Working Papers 162, Households in Conflict Network.
    8. Brian Dillon & Joachim De Weerdt & Ted O’Donoghue, 2017. "Paying More For Less: Why Don't Households In Tanzania Take Advantage Of Bulk Discounts?," LICOS Discussion Papers 39617, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    9. Uri Gneezy & Alex Imas, 2016. "Lab in the Field: Measuring Preferences in the Wild," CESifo Working Paper Series 5953, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Pascaline Dupas & Jonathan Robinson, 2013. "Why Don't the Poor Save More? Evidence from Health Savings Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(4), pages 1138-1171, June.
    11. Landmann, Andreas & Vollan, Björn & Frölich, Markus, 2011. "Saving, Microinsurance: Why You Should Do Both or Nothing. A Behavioral Experiment on the Philippines," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Berlin 2011 51, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
    12. Emily Breza & Arun G. Chandrasekhar, 2015. "Social Networks, Reputation and Commitment: Evidence from a Savings Monitors Experiment," NBER Working Papers 21169, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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