Playing with Race: How Racial Diversity Affects Redistributive Behavior in Simulated Public Goods Games
26 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 5, 2013
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: Suggested Citation