Jan Fidrmuc (Brunel University): How Persistent Is Social Capital?

Social capital and other informal institutions are said to be highly persistent, with historical events such as conflict, dictatorship or colonization having a long-lasting effect. I test this proposition utilizing regions that experienced large-scale population displacements after WWII. As social capital is accumulated through relationships and connections, regions that were repopulated by migrants from a wide range of backgrounds are likely to have little inherited social capital. My analysis suggests that the repopulated regions are little different from those unaffected by population transfers. Hence, contrary to the Putnamesque view, contemporaneous social capital need not be determined by long-term historical legacies. I argue that the break-down of law and order and prevalence of organized crime and corruption are more likely explanations for low levels of social capital in Southern Italy and Eastern Europe than historical legacies.

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