The Economic Impact of Social Ties: Evidence from German Reunification

Konrad B. Burchardi, Tarek Alexander Hassan

NBER Working Paper No. 17186
Issued in June 2011, Revised in August 2012
NBER Program(s):Corporate Finance, International Trade and Investment, Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Labor Studies

We use the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to show that personal relationships which individuals maintain for non-economic reasons can be an important determinant of regional economic growth. We show that West German households who have social ties to East Germany in 1989 experience a persistent rise in their personal incomes after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Moreover, the presence of these households significantly affects economic performance at the regional level: it increases the returns to entrepreneurial activity, the share of households who become entrepreneurs, and the likelihood that firms based within a given West German region invest in East Germany. As a result, West German regions which (for idiosyncratic reasons) have a high concentration of households with social ties to the East exhibit substantially higher growth in income per capita in the early 1990s. A one standard deviation rise in the share of households with social ties to East Germany in 1989 is associated with a 4.6 percentage point rise in income per capita over six years. We interpret our findings as evidence of a causal link between social ties and regional economic development.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17186

Published: Konrad B. Burchardi & Tarek A. Hassan, 2013. "The Economic Impact of Social Ties: Evidence from German Reunification," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(3), pages 1219-1271. citation courtesy of

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