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Colloquium Series: Frederick Wherry, Yale University
February 22 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
To Lend or Not to Lend: Obfuscating Denials and Managing Negative Social Capital
Sociologists have recognized that help seeking behaviors can impose excessive claims on some network members. Drawing on interviews with individuals in an innovative credit building program, this article presents previously unseen strategies that benefactors enact to negotiate with help seekers about how much assistance (if any) they can provide. While it is difficult to say no to close family members and desperate friends, lenders can obfuscate a denial, providing help seekers an opportunity to withdraw quietly or to revise a request. Attending to proactive as well as the reactive strategies foregrounds agentic performances in responding to negative social capital and in enacting delicate relational work. These strategies have important implications for policies and practices meant to improve household financial security.
The paper being presented was co-authored with Kristin S. Seefeldt (Michigan) and Anthony S. Alvarez (Cal State Fullerton). The research was supported by the Behavioral Economics Program at the Russell Sage Foundation, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, and the Yale Office of the Provost.