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Making up people—The effect of identity on performance in a modernizing society

  • Hoff, Karla
  • Pandey, Priyanka

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 288 high-caste and 294 low-caste students in India, cues to one's place in the caste system turned out to starkly influence the expression of these traits. The experiment allows us to discriminate between two classes of models that give different answers to the question of how someone's identity affects his behavior. Models of the fixed self assume that identity is a set of preferences. Models of the frame-dependent self assume that identity entails a set of mental models that are situationally evoked and that mediate information processing. Our findings suggest that the effect of identity on intellectual performance depends sensitively on the social setting. This perspective opens up new policy options for enhancing human capital formation and development.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Development Economics.

Volume (Year): 106 (2014)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 118-131

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Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:106:y:2014:i:c:p:118-131
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  1. Karla Hoff & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2010. "Equilibrium Fictions: A Cognitive Approach to Societal Rigidity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 141-46, May.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Karla Hoff & Mayuresh Kshetramade, 2008. "Spite and Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 494-99, May.
  3. Lambarraa, Fatima & Riener, Gerhard, 2012. "On the Norms of Charitable Giving in Islam: A Field Experiment," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 126795, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  4. Karla Hoff & Priyanka Pandey, 2006. "Discrimination, Social Identity, and Durable Inequalities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 206-211, May.
  5. S. Narayan, 2009. "India," Chapters, in: The Political Economy of Trade Reform in Emerging Markets, chapter 7 Edward Elgar.
  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. Fryer, Roland & List, John A. & Levitt, Steven D., 2008. "Exploring the Impact of Financial Incentives on Stereotype Threat: Evidence from a Pilot Study," Scholarly Articles 2961941, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. 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.
  9. Hoff, Karla & Kshetramade, Mayuresh & Fehr, Ernst, 2009. "Caste and punishment : the legacy of caste culture in norm enforcement," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5040, The World Bank.
  10. 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.
  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. LeBoeuf, Robyn A. & Shafir, Eldar & Bayuk, Julia Belyavsky, 2010. "The conflicting choices of alternating selves," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 111(1), pages 48-61, January.
  13. Hanming Fang & Glenn C. Loury, 2005. ""Dysfunctional Identities" Can Be Rational," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-147, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  14. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  15. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2005. "Social Preferences and the Response to Incentives: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 917-962, August.
  16. 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.
  17. Greif, Avner & Tabellini, Guido, 2012. "The Clan and the City: Sustaining Cooperation in China and Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 9072, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Kaivan Munshi & Nicholas Wilson, 2008. "Identity, Parochial Institutions, and Occupational Choice: Linking the Past to the Present in the American Midwest," NBER Working Papers 13717, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Hoff, Karla & Sen, Arijit, 2005. "The kin system as a poverty trap?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3575, The World Bank.
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