Cooperation Hidden Frontiers: The Behavioral Foundations of the Italian North-South Divide

Quaderni DSE Working Paper N° 882

39 Pages Posted: 21 May 2013 Last revised: 11 Nov 2013

See all articles by Maria Bigoni

Maria Bigoni

University of Bologna - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Stefania Bortolotti

MPI for Research on Collective Goods

Marco Casari

University of Bologna - Department of Economics

Diego Gambetta

University of Oxford

Francesca Pancotto

Department of Communication and Economics; Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa - Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM); University of Bologna - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 17, 2013

Abstract

Socio-economic performance differs not only across countries but within countries too and can persist even after religion, language, and formal institutions are long shared. One interpretation of these disparities is that successful regions are characterized by higher levels of trust, and, more generally, of cooperation. Here we study a classic case of within-country disparities, the Italian North-South divide, to find out whether people exhibit geographically distinct abilities to cooperate independently of many other factors and whence these differences emerge. Through an experiment in four Italian cities, we study the behavior of a sample of the general population toward trust and contributions to the common good. We find that trust and contributions vary in unison, and diminish moving from North to South. This regional gap cannot be attributed to payoffs from cooperation or to institutions, formal or informal, that may vary across Italy, as the experimental methodology silences their impact.

The gap is also independent of risk and other-regarding preferences which we measure experimentally, suggesting that the lower ability to cooperate we find in the South is not due to individual "moral" flaws. The gap could originate from emergent collective properties, such as different social norms and the expectations they engender. The absence of convergence in behavior during the last 150 years, since Italy was unified, further suggests that these norms can persist overtime. Using a millennium-long dataset, we explore whether the quality of past political institutions and the frequency of wars could explain the emergence of these differences in norms.

Keywords: trust, social norms, experiments, long-term persistence, conflicts, institutions

JEL Classification: C90, D03

Suggested Citation

Bigoni, Maria and Bortolotti, Stefania and Casari, Marco and Gambetta, Diego and Pancotto, Francesca, Cooperation Hidden Frontiers: The Behavioral Foundations of the Italian North-South Divide (May 17, 2013). Quaderni DSE Working Paper N° 882. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2267266 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2267266

Maria Bigoni (Contact Author)

University of Bologna - Department of Economics ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 2
Bologna, Bologna 40126
Italy
+390512098134 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.unibo.it/sitoweb/maria.bigoni/en

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Stefania Bortolotti

MPI for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany

Marco Casari

University of Bologna - Department of Economics ( email )

Strada Maggiore 45
Bologna, 40125
Italy

Diego Gambetta

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Francesca Pancotto

Department of Communication and Economics ( email )

Viale Allegri, 9
Reggio Emilia, Modena 41100
Italy
393313533645 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://personale.unimore.it/rubrica/dettaglio/f.pancotto

Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa - Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM) ( email )

Piazza Martiri della Liberta, 33
Pisa, I-56127
Italy

University of Bologna - Department of Economics ( email )

Strada Maggiore 45
Bologna, 40125
Italy

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