Social Capital and Social Quilts: Network Patterns of Favor Exchange

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Abstract:

We examine the informal exchange of favors in societies such that any two individuals interact too infrequently to sustain exchange, but such that the social pressure of the possible loss of multiple relationships can sustain exchange. Patterns of exchange that are locally enforceable and renegotiation-proof necessitate that all links are “supported”: any two individuals exchanging favors have a common friend. In symmetric settings, such robust networks are “social quilts”: tree-like unions of completely connected subnetworks. Examining favor exchange networks in 75 villages in rural India, we find high levels of support and identify characteristics that correlate with support.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.102.5.1857

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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