Social division, trust, and reciprocity among Chinese inmates
Economics, Finance and Quantitative Analysis
Social capital promotes cooperation between people and, in turn, economic growth and stability. Trust and trustworthiness are components of social capital that are associated with economic success. This paper provides insight into the impact of social division on cooperative behavior. We use the one-shot investment game to measure trust and reciprocity among inmates in a Chinese prison, which offers an institutional setting that allows us to examine how social interaction, or a lack thereof, fosters cooperation. Results show that the variation in social division through physical separation does not have a significant impact on cooperative behavior among inmates. However, inmates are more trusting than our benchmark group of university students even though inmates have faced significant life challenges. While social interaction fails to boost trust and reciprocity, childhood experience and family environment mold social preferences. In particular, reciprocity deteriorates for those who have migrant mothers.
Research in Economics
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