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Author: Oostendorp, Remigius Henricus
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1. Oostendorp, Remigius Henricus
Adam Smith, Social Norms, and Economic Behavior
Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 1995. DAI-A 56/12, p. 4871, Jun 1996
Cohort(s): Mature Women
Publisher: UMI - University Microfilms, Bell and Howell Information and Learning
Keyword(s): Labor Economics; Labor Force Participation; Women

The dissertation Adam Smith, Social Norms, and Economic Behavior (advisors: Professor Amartya Sen (chair) and Professor Claudia Goldin) focuses on the question how moral reasoning and social norms can be incorporated within models of rational behavior. The three chapters discuss several of the conceptual, theoretical, and empirical issues involved. The first chapter discusses the social philosophy of Adam Smith from the theoretical point of view. The main focus is on his The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). It is shown that his principle of sympathy, or the capacity to put oneself in the position of another person, forms the core of his social theory, and that this principle is much more complex than most discussions of Smith's social philosophy suggest. In particular, Smith's principle of sympathy is a principle of moral judgment. It is also discussed how this moral principle functions within Smith's economic analysis. The second chapter discusses the recent alternative approaches to economic rationality, particularly those that are concerned with the role of perceptions, social learning, emotions, norms, moral reasoning, and evolution in economic decision making. It is shown that many of these alternative approaches are based on inventive reinterpretations of the standard model of economic rationality. It is also discussed why the recent challenges to the standard concept of economic rationality can be viewed as challenges to the scope of economics. In the final chapter a game theoretic model is developed to describe and explain the change and impact of social attitudes to women working on their labor force participation. The model integrates two insights that have been developed by Akerlof and others, namely that the utility of agents can be affected by social norms (Akerlof 1982), and that cognitive dissonance may have important economic consequences (Akerlof and Dickens 1982). The empirical evidence on the change in social attitudes to women working is discussed for the United States for the period 1936-1994, and the implications of the model are tested with panel data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Labor Market Experience.
Bibliography Citation
Oostendorp, Remigius Henricus. Adam Smith, Social Norms, and Economic Behavior. Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 1995. DAI-A 56/12, p. 4871, Jun 1996.