Who Should I Share Risk with? Gifts can tell: Theory and Evidence from Rural China

Ruixin Wang

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paperOther research output

Abstract

This paper studies how gift exchange may help to overcome limited commitment problem in risk sharing. When efficient contract enforcement is lacking, people rely on friends (or relatives) to share risk since emotional or moral cost of defaulting between friends can help to prevent moral hazard. The problem is how to distinguish between friends and non-friends? Gift expense serves as a signal of friendship since giving a gift is less costly for a friend than a non-friend due to altruism. The model re-evaluates the role of gift exchange in developing economies, and helps to rationalize the large amount of gift exchange in China (10% of living expenditure). As a signal, gift exchange improves the efficiency in risk sharing and facilitates favor exchange, but I also demonstrate that the welfare gains due to this improvement may be offset by increased inequality. By using a unique data set containing detailed records about gift exchange in rural China, the empirical study suggests gift expenses, as a signal, significantly increase the probability of risk sharing. I also show further empirical evidence to the theory by testing more model predictions.
LanguageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherCentER, Center for Economic Research
Number of pages45
Volume2016-003
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2016

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper
Volume2016-003

Fingerprint

Gift
Rural China
Gift exchange
Risk sharing
Expenses
Altruism
Model testing
Empirical study
Emotion
China
Commitment problem
Friendship
Contract enforcement
Empirical evidence
Developing economies
Moral hazard
Expenditure
Welfare gains
Efficient contract
Limited commitment

Keywords

  • gift exchange
  • risk sharing
  • emotinal collateral
  • signaling

Cite this

Wang, R. (2016). Who Should I Share Risk with? Gifts can tell: Theory and Evidence from Rural China. (CentER Discussion Paper; Vol. 2016-003). Tilburg: CentER, Center for Economic Research.
Wang, Ruixin. / Who Should I Share Risk with? Gifts can tell : Theory and Evidence from Rural China. Tilburg : CentER, Center for Economic Research, 2016. (CentER Discussion Paper).
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Wang, R 2016 'Who Should I Share Risk with? Gifts can tell: Theory and Evidence from Rural China' CentER Discussion Paper, vol. 2016-003, CentER, Center for Economic Research, Tilburg.

Who Should I Share Risk with? Gifts can tell : Theory and Evidence from Rural China. / Wang, Ruixin.

Tilburg : CentER, Center for Economic Research, 2016. (CentER Discussion Paper; Vol. 2016-003).

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paperOther research output

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T1 - Who Should I Share Risk with? Gifts can tell

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AB - This paper studies how gift exchange may help to overcome limited commitment problem in risk sharing. When efficient contract enforcement is lacking, people rely on friends (or relatives) to share risk since emotional or moral cost of defaulting between friends can help to prevent moral hazard. The problem is how to distinguish between friends and non-friends? Gift expense serves as a signal of friendship since giving a gift is less costly for a friend than a non-friend due to altruism. The model re-evaluates the role of gift exchange in developing economies, and helps to rationalize the large amount of gift exchange in China (10% of living expenditure). As a signal, gift exchange improves the efficiency in risk sharing and facilitates favor exchange, but I also demonstrate that the welfare gains due to this improvement may be offset by increased inequality. By using a unique data set containing detailed records about gift exchange in rural China, the empirical study suggests gift expenses, as a signal, significantly increase the probability of risk sharing. I also show further empirical evidence to the theory by testing more model predictions.

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Wang R. Who Should I Share Risk with? Gifts can tell: Theory and Evidence from Rural China. Tilburg: CentER, Center for Economic Research. 2016 Jan 19. (CentER Discussion Paper).