Building Social Capital to Promote Political Engagement in Heterogeneous Communities
We study the extent to which heterogeneous groups are less capable of solving collective action problems and the mechanisms through which group heterogeneity operates. We hypothesize that social frictions induced by religious or socioeconomic diversity impede group coordination and cooperation, and thus interventions that reduce these frictions may enhance a group’s ability to solve collective-action problems and increase political participation. We test these hypotheses in a unique experimental setting: local WhatsApp groups in New Delhi, India formed for the purpose of organizing a community workshop with an NGO to address high levels of air pollution. We randomize the composition of these groups, and we further cross-randomize whether groups receive an intervention designed to reduce social frictions by emphasizing a common identity among group members. We examine effects on the success of the event, and we shed light on mechanisms with lab-in-the-field evidence. In addition to their relevance to the academic literature on public good provision and social capital, our results will inform policy for enhancing intergroup cooperation and effectively using social media as a tool to improve governance outcomes.