At the root of the North-South cooperation gap in Italy: Preferences or beliefs?
The marked difference in the development of the North and the South of Italy represents a prototypical case of seemingly intractable within-country disparities. Recent research found that a plausible determinant of this socio-economic gap would be a difference in the ability to cooperate. Through a laboratory experiment we investigate whence this difference derives, whether from different preferences or from different beliefs. Our findings indicate that Northerners and Southerners share the same individual pro-social preferences, and that the cooperation gap lies rather in the pessimistic beliefs that Southerners have about their cooperativeness. Southerners, furthermore, manifest a stronger aversion to social risk, as compared to the risk of nature. A policy implication is that an intervention or an event that reduced pessimistic beliefs would directly boost cooperation levels.
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