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Asymmetry of Information within Family Networks


  • Joachim De Weerdt
  • Garance Genicot
  • Alice Mesnard


This paper studies asymmetry of information and transfers within a unique data set of 712 extended family networks from Tanzania. Using cross-reports on asset holdings, we construct measures of misperception of income among all pairs of households belonging to the same network. We show that there is significant asymmetry of information and no evidence of major systematic over-evaluation or under-evaluation of income in our data, although there is a slight over-evaluation on the part of migrants regarding non-migrants. We develop a static model of asymmetric information that contrasts altruism, pressure and exchange as motives to transfer. The model makes predictions about the correlations between misperceptions and transfers under these competing explanations. Testing these predictions in the data uncovers the active role played by the recipient. Our findings suggest that the recipient sets the terms of the transfers, either by exerting pressure to give on the donor or by holding the bargaining power during the exchange of services with the donor.

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  • Joachim De Weerdt & Garance Genicot & Alice Mesnard, 2015. "Asymmetry of Information within Family Networks," NBER Working Papers 21685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21685
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    References listed on IDEAS

    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..
    2. Joachim De Weerdt & Kalle Hirvonen, 2016. "Risk Sharing and Internal Migration," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65(1), pages 63-86.
    3. Catia Batista & Gaia Narciso, 2013. "Migrant remittances and information flows: Evidence from a field experiment," NOVAFRICA Working Paper Series wp1306, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia, NOVAFRICA.
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    5. Orazio P. Attanasio & Nicola Pavoni, 2011. "Risk Sharing in Private Information Models With Asset Accumulation: Explaining the Excess Smoothness of Consumption," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(4), pages 1027-1068, July.
    6. Rapoport, Hillel & Docquier, Frederic, 2006. "The Economics of Migrants' Remittances," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier.
    7. Pamela Jakiela & Owen Ozier, 2016. "Does Africa Need a Rotten Kin Theorem? Experimental Evidence from Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(1), pages 231-268.
    8. Christopher F Baum & Mark E. Schaffer & Steven Stillman, 2007. "Enhanced routines for instrumental variables/GMM estimation and testing," CERT Discussion Papers 0706, Centre for Economic Reform and Transformation, Heriot Watt University.
    9. Mittag, Nikolas, 2012. "New methods to estimate models with large sets of fixed effects with an application to matched employer-employee data from Germany," FDZ Methodenreport 201201_en, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
    10. Chort, Isabelle & Gubert, Flore & Senne, Jean-Noël, 2012. "Migrant networks as a basis for social control: Remittance incentives among Senegalese in France and Italy," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(5), pages 858-874.
    11. Fafchamps, Marcel & Gubert, Flore, 2007. "The formation of risk sharing networks," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 326-350, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ambler, Kate, 2015. "Don't tell on me: Experimental evidence of asymmetric information in transnational households," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 52-69.
    2. Genicot, Garance, 2016. "Two-sided altruism and signaling," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 92-97.
    3. De Arcangelis, Giuseppe & Joxhe, Majlinda & McKenzie, David & Tiongson, Erwin & Yang, Dean, 2015. "Directing remittances to education with soft and hard commitments: Evidence from a lab-in-the-field experiment and new product take-up among Filipino migrants in Rome," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 197-208.
    4. 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.

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    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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