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Why do parents socialize their children to behave pro-socially? An information-based theory

Adriani, Fabrizio and Sonderegger, Silvia (2009): Why do parents socialize their children to behave pro-socially? An information-based theory.

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Abstract

We present a model of intergenerational transmission of pro-social values in which parents have information about relevant characteristics of society that is not directly available to their children. Differently from existing models of cultural transmission of values (such as Bisin and Verdier, 2001, and Tabellini, 2008) we assume that parents are exclusively concerned with their children's material welfare. If parents coordinate their educational choices, a child would look at her system of values to predict the values of her contemporaries, with whom she may interact. A parent may thus choose to instil pro-social values into his child in order to signal to her that others can generally be trusted. This implies that parents may optimally decide to endow their children with values that stand in contrast with maximization of material welfare, even if their children's material welfare is all they care about.

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