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International interventions to build social capital : evidence from a field experiment in Sudan

  • Avdeenko, Alexandra
  • Gilligan, Michael J.
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    Over the past decade the international community, especially the World Bank, has conducted programs to increase local public service delivery in developing countries by improving local governing institutions and creating social capital. This paper evaluates one such program in Sudan to answer the question: Can the international community change the grassroots civic culture of developing countries to increase social capital? The paper offers three contributions. First, it uses lab-in-the-field measures to focus on the effects of the program on pro-social preferences without the confounding influence of any program- induced changes on local governing institutions. Second, it tests whether the program led to denser social networks in recipient communities. Based on these two measures, the effect of the program was a precisely estimated zero. However, in a retrospective survey, respondents from program communities characterized their behavior as being more pro-social and their communities more socially cohesive. This leads to a third contribution of the paper: it provides evidence for the hypothesis, stated by several scholars in the literature, that retrospective survey measures of social capital over biased evidence of a positive effect of these programs. Regardless of one's faith in retrospective self-reported survey measures, the results clearly point to zero impact of the program on pro-social preferences and social network density. Therefore, if the increase in self-reported behaviors is accurate, it must be because of social sanctions that enforce compliance with pro-social norms through mechanisms other than the social networks that were measured.

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    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6772.

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    Date of creation: 01 Feb 2014
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    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6772
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    1. Labonne, Julien & Chase, Robert S., 2011. "Do community-driven development projects enhance social capital? Evidence from the Philippines," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 348-358, November.
    2. Juan Camilo Cardenas & Jeffrey Carpenter, 2008. "Behavioural Development Economics: Lessons from Field Labs in the Developing World," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(3), pages 311-338.
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    4. Barrett, Scott, 2005. "Environment and Statecraft: The Strategy of Environmental Treaty-Making," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286096, July.
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    6. Katherine Casey & Rachel Glennerster & Edward Miguel, 2012. "Reshaping Institutions: Evidence on Aid Impacts Using a Preanalysis Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(4), pages 1755-1812.
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    9. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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    12. Andrew Beath & Fotini Christia & Ruben Enikolopov, 2013. "Empowering Women through Development Aid: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan," Working Papers w0191, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
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