Skip to main content

Social capital dynamics and collective action: the role of subjective satisfaction in a common pool resource experiment

  • Leonardo Becchetti (a1), Stefano Castriota (a2) and Pierluigi Conzo (a3)

In low-income countries, grassroots collective action for the management of a common environmental resource is a well-known substitute for government provision of public goods. In our research we test experimentally what its effect is on social capital. To this purpose we structure a ‘sandwich’ experiment in which participants play a common pool resource game (CPRG) between two trust games in a Nairobi slum where social capital is scarce but informal rules regulating the commons are abundant. Our findings show that the change in trustworthiness between the two trust game rounds generated by the CPRG experience is crucially affected by the subjective satisfaction about the CPRG, rather than by standard objective measures related to CPRG players' behaviour. These results highlight that subjective satisfaction in a collective action has relevant predictive power on social capital creation, providing information which can be crucial to designing successful self-organized environmental resource regimes.

Hide All
Alesina, A., Baqir, R., and Easterly, W. (1999), ‘Public goods and ethnic divisions’, Quarterly Journal of Economics 114(4): 12431284.
Arrow, K.J. (1974), The Limits of Organization, 1st edn New York: Norton.
Becchetti, L. and Conzo, P. (2011), ‘Enhancing capabilities through credit access: creditworthiness as a signal of trustworthiness under asymmetric information’, Journal of Public Economics 95(3–4): 265278.
Becchetti, L., Conzo, P., and Romeo, A. (2013), ‘Violence, social capital and economic development: evidence of a microeconomic vicious circle’, Oxford Economic Papers; doi:10.1093/oep/gpt008.
Becchetti, L., Conzo, P., and Degli Antoni, G. (2015), ‘Public disclosure of players’ conduct and common resources harvesting: experimental evidence from a Nairobi slum', Social Choice and Welfare 45: 7196.
Beguy, D., Bocquier, P., and Msiyaphazi Zulu, E. (2010), ‘Circular migration patterns and determinants in Nairobi slum settlements’, Demographic Research 23, Art. 20: 549586.
Berg, J., Dickhaut, J., and McCabe, K. (1995), ‘Trust, reciprocity, and social history‘, Games and Economic Behavior 10(1): 122142.
Blattman, C. and Annan, J. (2010), ‘The consequences of child soldiering’, Review of Economics and Statistics 92(4): 882898.
Bohnet, I. and Greig, F. (2009), ‘Exploring gendered behavior in the field with experiments: why public goods are provided by women in a Nairobi slum’, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 70: 19.
Brandts, J. and Charness, G. (2000), ‘Hot vs. cold: sequential responses and preference stability in experimental games’, Experimental Economics 2: 227238.
Camerer, C. and Fehr, E. (2003), ‘Measuring social norms and preferences using experimental games: a guide for social scientists’, David K. Levine's Working Paper Archive, St Louis, MO.
Casari, M. and Cason, T.N. (2009), ‘The strategy method lowers measured trustworthy behavior’, Economics Letters 103(3): 157159.
Cason, T.N. and Mui, V. (1998), ‘Social influence in the sequential dictator game’, Journal of Mathematical Psychology 42(2–3): 248265.
Cassar, A. and Wydick, B. (2010), ‘Does social capital matter? Evidence from a five-country group lending experiment’, Oxford Economic Papers 62(4): 715739.
Clark, A.E., Frijters, P., and Shields, M.A. (2006), ‘Income and happiness: evidence, explanations and economic implications’, Working Paper No. 2006–24, Jourdan Sciences Economiques, Paris.
Faye, O., Baschieri, A., Falkingham, J., and Muindi, K. (2011), ‘Hunger and food insecurity in Nairobi's slums: an assessment using IRT models’, Journal of Urban Health 88(2): 235255.
Fehr, E. (2009), ‘On the economics and biology of trust’, Journal of the European Economic Association 7(2–3): 235266.
Fehr, E. and Gächter, S. (2002), ‘Altruistic punishment in humans’, Nature 415: 137140.
Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A. (2005), ‘Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect,Journal of Public Economics 89: 9971019.
Fischbacher, U., Gächter, S., and Fehr, E. (2001), ‘Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment’, Economics Letters 71(3): 397404.
Frey, B.S. and Stutzer, A. (2002), ‘What can economists learn from happiness research’, Journal of Economic Literature 40(2): 402435.
Frey, B.S. and Stutzer, A. (2010), ‘Recent advances in the economics of individual subjective well-being’, IZA Discussion Paper No. 4850, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn.
Frey, B.S., Benz, M., and Stutzer, A. (2003), ‘Introducing procedural utility: not only what, but also how matters’, Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 60: 377401.
Fullenkamp, R. and Chami, C. (2002), ‘Trust and efficiency’, Journal of Banking and Finance 26(9): 17851809.
Gradstein, M. and Justman, M. (2002), ‘Education, social cohesion, and economic growth’, American Economic Review 92(4): 11921204.
Greig, F. and Bohnet, I. (2008), ‘Is there reciprocity in a reciprocal-exchange economy? Evidence of gendered norms from a slum in Nairobi, Kenya’, Economic Inquiry 46(1): 7783.
Guiso, L., Sapienza, P., and Zingales, L. (2004), ‘The role of social capital in financial development’, American Economic Review 94(3): 526557.
Guiso, L., Sapienza, P., and Zingales, L. (2008), ‘Long term persistence’, Chicago GSB Research Paper No. 08-11, Chicago, IL.
Henrich, J. and Smith, N. (2004), ‘Comparative experimental evidence from Machiguenga, Mapuche, Huinca and American populations shows substantial variation among social groups in bargaining and public goods behavior’, in Henrich, J., Boyd, R., Bowles, S., Gintis, H., Fehr, E. and Camerer, C. (eds), Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence from Fifteen Smallscale Societies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 125167.
Hirano, K., Imbens, G.W., and Ridder, G. (2003), ‘Efficient estimation of average treatment effects using the estimated propensity score’, Econometrica 71(4): 11611189.
Keefer, P. and Knack, S. (1997), ‘Does social capital have an economic payoff? A cross-country investigation’, Quarterly Journal of Economics 112(4): 12511288.
La Porta, R., Lopez De Silanes, F., Shleifer, A., and Vishny, R.W. (1997), ‘Legal determinants of external finance’, Journal of Finance LII(3): 11311150.
Montalvo, J.G. and Reynal-Querol, M. (2005a), ‘Ethnic diversity and economic development’, Journal of Development Economics 76: 293323.
Montalvo, J.G. and Reynal-Querol, M. (2005b), ‘Ethnic polarization, potential conflict, and civil wars’, American Economic Review 95(3): 796816.
Ostrom, E. (1990), Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ostrom, E. (2000), ‘Collective action and the evolution of social norms’, Journal of Economic Perspectives 14(3): 137158.
Putnam, R.D. (1993), Making Democracy Work. Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
L, Stanca. (2010), ‘How to be kind? Outcomes versus intentions as determinants of fairness’, Economics Letters 106(1): 1921.
Transparency International Kenya (2001), ‘Harambee. Pooling together or pulling apart?’, [Available at]
Wilson, L.S. (1992), ‘The Harambee movement and efficient public good provision in Kenya’, Journal of Public Economics 48(1): 119.
Zak, P.J. and Knack, S. (2001), ‘Trust and growth’, Economic Journal 111(470): 295321.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environment and Development Economics
  • ISSN: 1355-770X
  • EISSN: 1469-4395
  • URL: /core/journals/environment-and-development-economics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Becchetti supplementary material
Online Appendix

 PDF (1.5 MB)
1.5 MB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed