Playing with Race: How Racial Diversity Affects Redistributive Behavior in Simulated Public Goods Games

26 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2013

See all articles by Justin de Benedictis-Kessner

Justin de Benedictis-Kessner

Boston Area Research Initiative (Harvard University and Northeastern University)

Daniel de Kadt

University of California, Merced

Tess Wise

Harvard University - Department of Government

Date Written: April 5, 2013

Abstract

Contact between groups of different racial and ethnic backgrounds is the focus of much research, yet there exists no overall consensus of the conditions under which such contact may help to create more tolerant attitudes and behavior, or foster resentment and intolerant behavior. We develop an experimental design that uses simulated economic games to test whether racial demographics have an effect on financial contributions to a good. Subjects were situated in a virtual community meeting where contributions toward a public park were elicited. Using an original database of faces, we varied the racial demographics of the community while keeping gender ratios and attractiveness constant. Our results indicate that diversity has few baseline effects on white Americans' generosity toward a public good in the experimental setting. Where effects do exist, they vary in line with whether public good is shared by the subject with others than when it is not shared by the person contributing. Our findings reject a "racial threat" hypothesis, but fall short of allowing us to meaningfully conclude that racial "contact" improves inter-racial attitudes and behavior. Further, our results suggest that subjects do not use race as a "strategic heuristic." Instead, "exclusionary attitudes" may account for differential rates of generosity across conditions. Finally, our results reveal some interesting treatment effect heterogeneity conditional on race and gender of the experimental subjects.

Keywords: race, experiments, redistribution, mTurk, diversity

Suggested Citation

de Benedictis-Kessner, Justin and de Kadt, Daniel and Wise, Tess, Playing with Race: How Racial Diversity Affects Redistributive Behavior in Simulated Public Goods Games (April 5, 2013). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2013-9. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2248078 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2248078

Justin De Benedictis-Kessner (Contact Author)

Boston Area Research Initiative (Harvard University and Northeastern University)

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: scholar.harvard.edu/jdbk/home

Daniel De Kadt

University of California, Merced ( email )

P.O. Box 2039
Merced, CA 95344
United States

Tess Wise

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
124
rank
166,497
Abstract Views
662
PlumX Metrics