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Making up people -- the effect of identity on preferences and performance in a modernizing society

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  • Hoff, Karla
  • Pandey, Priyanka

Abstract

It is typically assumed that being hard-working or clever is a trait of the person, in the sense that it is always there, in a fixed manner. However, in an experiment with almost 600 boys in India, cues to one's place in the traditional caste order turn out to influence the expression of these traits. The experiment assigned students to different treatments with respect to the salience of caste and had them solve mazes under incentives. It turned out that making caste salient can reduce output by about 25 percent, which is equivalent to twice the effect on output of being one year younger. The channels through which this occurs differ by caste status. For the upper castes, the decline in performance under piece rates can only be explained by a shift in preferences regarding the provision of effort. When the ascriptive caste order is cued, upper-caste individuals may think,"I don't need to excel."In contrast, for the lower castes, which were traditionally"untouchables,"publicly revealing caste identity impairs the ability to learn and may lead individuals to think,"I can't (or don't dare to) excel."This paper provides a measure of the impact that ascriptive, hierarchized identities can have on preferences and performance after a society -- in its public pronouncements and legislation -- has adopted norms of equality in a formal sense. The findings are important because they suggest that when contexts cue identities founded on the superseded rules of a hierarchical institution, the effects on human capital formation and development can be first-order. Contexts that make traditional identities salient are an underemphasized source of impediments to institutional change.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6223.

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Date of creation: 01 Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6223

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Related research

Keywords: Gender and Social Development; Educational Sciences; Arts&Music; Knowledge for Development; Race in Society;

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References

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  1. Grether, David M. & Plott, Charles R., . "Economic Theory of Choice and the Preference Reversal Phenomenon," Working Papers 152, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  2. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2002. "Identity and Schooling: Some Lessons for the Economics of Education," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1167-1201, December.
  3. repec:hal:cesptp:halshs-00542235 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Farzana Afridi & Sherry Xin Li & Yufei Ren, 2010. "Social Identity and Inequality--The Impact of China’s Hukou System," Working papers 190, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics.
  5. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
  6. Daniel J. Benjamin & James J. Choi & A. Joshua Strickland, 2010. "Social Identity and Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1913-28, September.
  7. Jacoby, Hanan G. & Mansuri, Ghazala, 2011. "Crossing boundaries : gender, caste and schooling in rural Pakistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5710, The World Bank.
  8. Karla Hoff & Mayuresh Kshetramade & Ernst Fehr, 2011. "Caste and Punishment: the Legacy of Caste Culture in Norm Enforcement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(556), pages F449-F475, November.
  9. Kaivan Munshi & Mark Rosenzweig, 2006. "Traditional Institutions Meet the Modern World: Caste, Gender, and Schooling Choice in a Globalizing Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1225-1252, September.
  10. Catherine Bros & Mathieu Couttenier, 2010. "Untouchability and Public Infrastructure," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 10074, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
  11. Priyanka Pandey, 2010. "Service Delivery and Corruption in Public Services: How Does History Matter?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 190-204, July.
  12. Hoff, Karla & Sen, Arijit, 2005. "The kin system as a poverty trap?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3575, The World Bank.
  13. Deshpande, Ashwini, 2011. "Deshpande: The Grammar of Caste - Economic Discrimination in Contemporary India," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198072034.
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