Farm Theft and Social Relationships: Evidence from Maasai Farm Watchmen
This project explores whether property crime has social effects by increasing exclusionary attitudes towards out-groups. Theft from farms is a pervasive problem in rural areas in developing countries. This project explores the effect of property crime on social relationships and group identity, with an experimental treatment subsidizing the availability of highly-regarded Maasai farm watchmen in Kenya. Fear of theft can have direct economic effects, by discouraging investment in high-value, but easily-stolen, crops. This type of crime can have social effects, where neighbors develop tight social bonds as a form of mutual assurance and mutual protection of property. Another, more pernicious, aspect of these tight in-groups is the exclusion of out-groups, with outsiders often blamed for crime. This sharpened distinction between in-group and out-group appears (from qualitative interviews) to fall along ethnic cleavages in heterogeneous areas. This project will test whether prevention of property crime in rural areas reduces ingroup-outgroup barriers between neighbors and non-neighbors, and between co-ethnics and other groups.