2013-2014 Seminar Series

Seminar Series

2013-14 Institutions, Market Processes, and the Firm Seminar Series: Jason Greenberg, NYU Stern

A Matter of (Relational) Style: Loan Officer Coherence and Consistency in Contract Enforcement in Microfinance

Please join us for our next IMPF Seminar Series on November 14th, 2013 at Cornell University from 4:30 to 6PM in the Uris Hall 302. Jason Greenberg will present his research “A Matter of (Relational) Style: Loan Officer Coherence and Consistency in Contract Enforcement in Microfinance.”


Social scientists have long considered what mechanisms underlie repeated exchange. Three mechanisms have garnered the majority of this attention: Formal contracts, relational contracts, and embedded social ties. Although each mechanism has its virtues, all three exhibit a common limitation: An inability to fully explain the continuation of inter-temporal exchange between individuals and organizations in the face of change. Drawing on extensive quantitative data on approximately 450,000 microfinance loans made by an MFI in Mexico from 2004 -2008 that include random assignment of loan officers, this research proposes the concept of “relational styles” to help explain how repeated exchange is possible in the face of change. We define relational styles as systematically reoccurring patterns of interaction employed by social actors within and across exchange relationships–in this paper, between microfinance clients and loan officers. Findings support our arguments that social actors care about the relational styles of their counterparties in an exchange. More specifically, we show that relational styles that are coherent facilitate a clear understanding of expectations and thus exchange. We also demonstrate that consistency in the relational styles followed by successive exchange counterparties mitigates the negative impact of change, like a broken personal tie. Theoretical implications and extensions are discussed.


Professor Greenberg’s research focuses on economic and organizational sociology, social networks and entrepreneurship. His dissertation work investigates how social networks have a bearing on the structure, functioning and performance of entrepreneurial founding teams. This work has received awards from the Kauffman Foundation, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, the Academy of Management and the National Federation of Independent Business. Prior to joining NYU Stern, Professor Greenberg was a research fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University and a research fellow at the Departments of Computer Science and Political Science at Northeastern University.  Additionally, he has worked as a specialist clerk on the floor of the American Stock Exchange, and as a management consultant specializing in organization and employee research for global and local companies such as Agilent Technologies, American Express, AstraZeneca, Bank of America, Boeing, CSX and IBM, among others.  He has also advised several start-ups with organizational, strategic and human capital issues, and helped found and manage several family-owned businesses. Professor Greenberg received his B.A. from SUNY Binghamton, his M.A. from the University of Florida, his M.P.P. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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“[T]he challenge is to specify and explicate the social mechanisms determining the relationship between the informal social organization of close-knit groups and the formal rules of institutional structures.”— Victor Nee