Cooperative Sharing and Costly Punishment across Ethnic Lines: Experimental Evidence from the Kenya-Tanzania Border
1 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2012 Last revised: 27 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2012
We conduct a behavioral economics experiment designed to address two puzzles in the study of interethnic cooperation: (1) does the punishment of norm-violators vary across and within ethnic groups, and (2) how effective are unifying superordinate identities at alleviating the tensions often associated with ascriptive group differences? We address these puzzles using a combination of dictator and random income games with costly third-party punishment. In those experiments, participants are informed about each other’s group affiliations, thus allowing us to examine how ethnic identities shape egalitarian and altruistic motives. Furthermore, we perform experiments on each side of the Kenya-Tanzania border, thus allowing us to assess whether superordinate national identities moderate cleavages among ethnic groups. Findings from our study show that — across national contexts — individuals spend resources both to sanction norm violations and to level inequalities. Ethnic affiliation, however, has little impact on sanctioning decisions, but — in Kenya — it appears to influence sharing decisions: out-group members share resources more readily when the recipient of their giving possesses the same ethnic affiliation as the third-party punisher. These findings provide a foundation for future investigations of inter-ethnic cooperation.
Keywords: ethnicity, nationalism, third-party punishment, behavioral economics
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