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Social embedding as a solution to a control problem? Evidence from Vietnamese small business* - page 33 / 52





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the cases. We use a very generous measure of help. A more stringent cut-off would decrease

the measured level of help. While families may be the most common source of help, the

degree of family members willingness and ability to help may often be over-estimated.

Institutional arrangements that result in relying on family members for resources may

severely limit the possibilities open to business. Aid is forthcoming from family members

significantly more often than from random individuals. Yet, at the same time, the level of

support is substantially less than what might be expected on the basis of theory which goes so

far as to suggest that parents bear children because they are productive assets (Bulatao and

Lee 1983). More broadly, these results suggest that knowing someone apparently does not

imply automatic access to their resources. Acquaintance may be necessary but it is not



This paper reports on our empirical explorations of three arguments about social

embeddedness resting on information, influence, and insurance, respectively. We use three

analytic levers that afford us methodological power. The first lever is that partnership

choices, whether as supplier, customer, collaborator, or employee, are mutual. That implies

that the flow of information among individuals does not necessarily lead to finding better

partners but those more appropriate, speeding the search and selection process. The second is

that social capital entails costs. That implies an investment of time and effort in relationships

and that, for the same level of benefit, different types of social embeddedness ought to be

substitutable for one another, reducing the costs of enforcing trust. The third lever is that

there are risks beyond those of a particular exchange. That implies that business owners

might be willing to forgo immediate benefit to insure against such risks. Because the


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