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The effect of prenatal stress on cooperation: Evidence from violent conflict in Uganda

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  • Cecchi, Francesco
  • Duchoslav, Jan

Abstract

Are preferences endogenously determined in the womb? We play a public goods game with Ugandan children born during a conflict characterised by high civilian victimisation. Children whose caregivers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to free-ride in the game. Genetic and environmental factors alone do not explain the relationship, but children’s 2D:4D digit ratio – a marker of fetal hormone exposure associated with epigenetic effects of maternal distress – does. Our findings extend the fetal origins literature to the domain of preferences. By reducing next generation’s taste for cooperation, conflict may have father-reaching economic consequences than previously thought.

Suggested Citation

  • Cecchi, Francesco & Duchoslav, Jan, 2018. "The effect of prenatal stress on cooperation: Evidence from violent conflict in Uganda," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 35-56.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:101:y:2018:i:c:p:35-56
    DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2017.09.015
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    Cited by:

    1. Brañas-Garza, Pablo & Chowdhury, Subhasish & Espín, Antonio M. & Nieboer, Jeroen, 2019. "‘Born this Way’? Prenatal Exposure to Testosterone May Determine Behavior in Competition and Conflict," MPRA Paper 92663, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Brañas-Garza, Pablo & Espín, Antonio M. & Garcia, Teresa & Kovářík, Jaromír, 2018. "Digit ratio (2D:4D) predicts pro-social behavior in economic games only for unsatisfied individuals," MPRA Paper 86166, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Nie, Zihan & Yang, Xiaojun & Tu, Qin, 2020. "Resource scarcity and cooperation: Evidence from a gravity irrigation system in China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).
    4. Hager, Anselm & Krakowski, Krzysztof & Schaub, Max, 2019. "Ethnic Riots and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 1029-1044.
    5. Krzysztof Krakowski, 2020. "Pulled Together or Torn Asunder? Community Cohesion After Symmetric and Asymmetric Civil War," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 64(7-8), pages 1470-1498, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Prenatal stress; Cooperation; Digit ratio; Fetal origins; Conflict;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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