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In this area I have three, inter-related, concerns. First, how does the pattern of social relationships (and the associated norms) affect development outcomes. Second, how is project success related to both the larger environment and specific project design issues. Third, how are social capital and local governance related?
Scenes from a Marriage: World Bank Economists and Social Capital. This is a chapter from a forthcoming book edited by Tony Bebbington, Michael Woolcock, and Scott Guggenheim, and E. Ostrom about the concept of social capital. Together with Jeffrey Hammer we look at it from the economist's view.
Cents and Sociability: Household Income and Social Capital in Rural Tanzania. (with Deepa Narayan). Economic Development and Cultural Change, 1999, vol. 47 (4). (download working paper version). Empirical work that identifies the social impact of associational life. Estimates quite large impacts of a measure of associational life on village consumption expenditures (proxy for income) as well as other dimensions of village like. The work taking advantage of the fact that a "social capital" survey took place in the same villages that a year earlier had had a multi-module living standards survey but with different households. So the "social" effect was estimated by examining the multivariate regressions of outcomes for one set of households on the measured village associational life that was measured using a completely different set of households.
Voice Lessons: Local Government Organizations, Social Organizations, and the Quality of Local Governance with Vivi Alatas and Anna Wetterberg. October 2002. An empirical examination of the connection between household's social activities and their perceived quality of local (village) government in Indonesia. We find that the private and the social effect of household participation in local village government organizations are of opposite signs and that one household's participation appears to "crowd out" participation by other households more than one for one.
There are two papers: micro--which looks at the relation between project performance and beneficiary participation for 121 water projects, and a macro--that looks at the relationship between the performance of World Bank financed projects and country characteristics--particularly civil liberties.
Does Participation Improve Performance?: Establishing Causality with Subjective Data. (with Jonathan Isham, Deepa Narayan) World Bank Economic Review 9(2): 175-200 (1995). Uses data from121 water projects that had information about project characteristics coded ex post from project documents. Uses the feature that the project "data" was created by two independent coders to address questions of "halo effects" and the validity of the subjective rankings. Shows the empirical connections at each stage: from a design that encourages participation to more participation to improved project performance.
Civil Liberties, Democracy, and the Performance of Government Projects. (with Jon Isham and Daniel Kaufmann). World Bank Economic Review, v 11 (2). Uses the large sample of projects financed by the World Bank to show that the economic rate of return (and success rate) on government projects is higher in countries with better civil liberties (controlling for country income, education, etc.).
The determinants of the magnitude and effectiveness of participation: Evidence from rural water projects. This paper, never really published, used the same data on 121 water projects to show that NGO projects were more successful only insofar as they promoted participation. This tries to examine the determinants of whether a project was or was not "participatory" as a function of sponsor of the project, etc.
This was a presentation and is my first attempt at a typology for participation--"Participation: What, Who, Why and When".
Michael Woolcock has written extensively on social capital (and his forthcoming book on social capital and development will be the state of the art).
Jon Isham is doing very interesting work on "co-production" and its relation to social capital and proejct design.
The World Bank Social Capital web site is also a good source.
Alberto Alesina does interesting work on fractionalization (with Eliana Ferrara, who does interesting work of her own). Edward Glaeser examines mostly the private dimensions of social capital, that is how households own social connections affect outcomes.