Inefficient social norms may add on to lack of resources and lack of knowledge as a cause of poverty in the developing world, according to Eliana La Ferrara, Fondazione Romeo ed Enrica Invernizzi Chair in Development Economics, who inaugurated yesterday the chair with a lecture about Social Constraints on Development.
La Ferrara explored the dark side of social norms on family, gender and ethnicity, showing that they can turn out to be tight constraints on development, as proved by scholarly literature. Family egalitarian norms may limit wealth accumulation, La Ferarra exemplified; in African agriculture plots cultivated by women are less productive because of social limitations to the use of factors like fertilizers or child labour; and higher ethnic diversity leads to lower public goods provision.
While the policy measures apt to overcome lack of resources and lack of knowledge are straightforward, La Ferrara concluded, solutions to the inefficiencies of social norms are yet to be found.
La Ferrara’s lecture was discussed by two prestigious scholars as Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics, MIT, and director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT, and Debraj Ray Julius Silver Professor, Faculty of Arts and Science and Professor of Economics, New York University and attended by Elsa Fornero, Italy’s Minister of Labour and Welfare, who participated on a private basis.