Understanding Ethnic Cooperation: Evidence from Experiments in Kenya
Ethnic polarization is often linked to underdevelopment and poor governance. What amplifies and what mitigates ethnic tensions amongst individuals in a society? The proposed piloting and project expansion aims to understand how subtle and moderate changes in context can impact economic behavior. During the run-up to the 2013 Kenyan national elections, researchers plan to use behavioral economics experiments to measure altruism, cooperation, and expected generosity in within-group and across-group interactions. Using “priming” within the lab, researchers will identify if these behavioral outcomes vary with the increased situational salience of ethnic identity, national identity, or political competition. Researchers will replicate the design at two time points to examine how election proximity might affect behavior, and in neighboring Tanzania to explore how differing political histories can shape current social interactions. The study offers insight as to how social and political context shapes behavior, and the findings will also inform the design of a real-world field experiment in Kenya that will attempt to shape attitudes towards ethnic cooperation.