Social Network as Safety Net: The Role of Emotional Support in Avoiding Financial Distress
46 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2021 Last revised: 27 Nov 2023
Date Written: March 24, 2021
This paper builds on the simple idea that social interactions often come with psychological
benefits, an understudied element in the growing social finance literature. Using microdata from U.S. and Australian household surveys, I document that individuals who lack emotional support from their social networks are more likely to experience financial hardship. This relationship is not confounded by other forms of support—such as financial assistance, care giving, and advice provision—and is confirmed by between-siblings and within-individual analyses as well as an instrumental variable strategy. Further investigation reveals that emotional support has a preventative effect and a restorative effect: individuals with strong emotional support can better overcome psychological barriers that impede them from taking precautions against potential adverse shocks; and these individuals can better cope with such a shock after its realization as emotional support boosts their confidence.
Keywords: emotional support, financial distress, social networks
JEL Classification: D91, G4, G5
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation