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Insiders, outsiders, and the adaptability of informal rules to ecological shocks

The history of the world is strewn with the remains of societies whose institutions failed to adapt to ecological change, but the determinants of institutional fragility are difficult to identify in the historical record. We report a laboratory experiment that explores the impact of an exogenous ecological shock on the informal rules of property and exchange. We find that geographically induced tribal sentiments, which are unobservable in the historical record, impede adaptation post-shock and that inequality declines as wealth and sociableness increase. Quantitative measures of individual and group sociality account for some of the differences in successful or failed adaptation.

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File URL: http://www.sfu.ca/econ-research/RePEc/sfu/sfudps/dp12-20.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University in its series Discussion Papers with number dp12-20.

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Length: 40
Date of creation: Jul 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:sfu:sfudps:dp12-20
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada
Phone: (778)782-3508
Fax: (778)782-5944
Web page: http://www.sfu.ca/economics.html

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Order Information: Postal: Working Paper Coordinator, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada
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  1. Erik Kimbrough & Vernon Smith & Bart Wilson, 2006. "Historical Property Rights, Sociality, and the Emergence of Impersonal Exchange in Long-distance Trade," Working Papers 1003, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Oct 2006.
  2. Todd L. Cherry & Peter Frykblom & Jason F. Shogren, 2002. "Hardnose the Dictator," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1218-1221, September.
  3. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-60, June.
  4. Matthew J. Baker, 2003. "An Equilibrium Conflict Model of Land Tenure in Hunter-Gatherer Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(1), pages 124-173, February.
  5. Bart J. Wilson & Taylor Jaworski & Karl E. Schurter & Andrew Smyth, 2012. "The Ecological and Civil Mainsprings of Property: An Experimental Economic History of Whalers' Rules of Capture," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(4), pages 617-656, October.
  6. Oliver Bochet & Talbot Page & Louis Putterman, 2002. "Communication and Punishment in Voluntary Contribution Experiments," Working Papers 2002-29, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  7. Crawford, Vincent, 1998. "A Survey of Experiments on Communication via Cheap Talk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 286-298, February.
  8. Roy Chen & Yan Chen, 2011. "The Potential of Social Identity for Equilibrium Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2562-89, October.
  9. Ellickson, Robert C, 1989. "A Hypothesis of Wealth-Maximizing Norms: Evidence from the Whaling Industry," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 83-97, Spring.
  10. Sean Crockett & Vernon Smith & Bart Wilson, 2006. "Exchange and Specialization as a Discovery Process," Working Papers 1002, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised May 2006.
  11. Yan Chen & Sherry Xin Li, 2009. "Group Identity and Social Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 431-57, March.
  12. Taylor Jaworski & Bart J. Wilson, 2009. "Go West Young Man: Self-selection and Endogenous Property Rights," Working Papers 09-02, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  13. Kimbrough, Erik O. & Smith, Vernon L. & Wilson, Bart J., 2010. "Exchange, theft, and the social formation of property," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 206-229, June.
  14. Hoffman Elizabeth & McCabe Kevin & Shachat Keith & Smith Vernon, 1994. "Preferences, Property Rights, and Anonymity in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 346-380, November.
  15. Erik O. Kimbrough & Bart J. Wilson, 2011. "Geography and Social Networks in Nascent Distal Exchange," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 167(3), pages 409-433, September.
  16. Clay, Karen & Wright, Gavin, 2005. "Order without law? Property rights during the California gold rush," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 155-183, April.
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