More and more micro economists are writing papers on social networks and how we learn from others. For example, here is a well known paper about pineapple farmers in Ghana learning from each other. In your life who is “influential”? If your mom makes a suggestion, do you embrace it? If President Obama endorses a toothpaste, do you use it? If the quarterback at your University suggests using a different hair gel, do you follow?
In Los Angeles, we follow what the celebrities do. The New York Times reports about vegan dining in Los Angeles and the role that celebrities play in making it hip and thus creating a bandwagon effect. As the celebrities go vegan, this increases the probability that typical LA people eat Vegan and this offers environmental benefits and learning about a life with less meat.
“The same goes for explicitly vegan or vegetarian restaurants like Café Gratitude, Elf Cafe,Real Food Daily and SunCafe, which is chronically full of luminous-skinned sylphs who seem to have floated in from a Fashion Week catwalk.
“The popularity thing took a turn mostly when a lot of celebrities started showing up,” said Cary Mosier, who runs the Café Gratitude outposts in Southern California with his brother, Ryland Engelhart. “Generally, celebrities are always concerned about eating well and taking care of themselves, so it started becoming flooded with actors. And then it was all the movie executives because the actors were there. And then they were having lunches there to discuss movies.”
In cases such as vegan eating, purchasing a high MPG vehicle, or purchasing solar panels or green power, there is a social positive externality when society can harness celebrity culture to increase the market share for these green goods. The alternative choices (meat, Hummers, coal fired power) all involve negative externalities so any activity that substitutes green for brown offers social benefits. 3 cheers for our LA celebrity culture!