NBER Technical Working Paper No. 258
This paper describes a range of methods which have been proposed to study interactions in economic and social contexts. By interactions, we refer to interdependences between individual decisions which are not mediated by markets. These types of models have been employed to understand phenomena ranging from the effect of neighborhoods on the life prospects of children to the evolution of political party platforms. We provide a general choice-based framework for modeling such interactions which subsumes a number of specific models which have been studied. This framework illustrates the relationship between interactions-based models and models in statistical mechanics. Our analysis is then extended to the econometrics of these models, with an emphasis on the identification of group-level influences on individual behavior. Finally, we review some of the empirical work on interactions which has appeared in the social science literature.