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How Strong are Ethnic Preferences?

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Abstract

Ethnic divisions have been shown to adversely affect economic performance and political stability, especially in Africa, but the underlying reasons remain contested, with multiple mechanisms potentially playing a role. We utilize lab experiments to isolate the role of one such mechanism—ethnic preferences—which have been central in both theory and in the conventional wisdom about the impact of ethnic differences. We employ an unusually rich research design, collecting multiple rounds of experimental data with a large sample of 1,300 subjects in Nairobi; employing within-lab priming conditions; and utilizing both standard and novel experimental measures, including implicit association tests. The econometric approach was pre-specified in a registered pre-analysis plan. Most of our tests yield no evidence of coethnic bias. The results run strongly against the common presumption of extensive ethnic bias among ordinary Kenyans, and suggest that other mechanisms may be more important in explaining the negative association between ethnic diversity and economic and political outcomes.

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  • Berge, Lars Ivar Oppedal & Bjorvatn, Kjetil & Galle, Simon & Miguel, Edward & Posner, Daniel & Tungodden, Bertil & Zhang, Kelly, 2015. "How Strong are Ethnic Preferences?," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 26/2015, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:nhheco:2015_026
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lori Beaman & Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo & Rohini Pande & Petia Topalova, 2009. "Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1497-1540.
    2. Claire L. Adida & David D. Laitin & Marie-Anne Valfort, 2015. "Religious Homophily In A Secular Country: Evidence From A Voting Game In France," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(2), pages 1187-1206, April.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:101:y:2007:i:04:p:709-725_07 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
    5. Marianne Bertrand & Dolly Chugh & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2005. "Implicit Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 94-98, May.
    6. Fisman, Raymond & Jakiela, Pamela & Kariv, Shachar, 2015. "How did distributional preferences change during the Great Recession?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 84-95.
    7. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2003. "Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2028, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. Garret Christensen & Edward Miguel, 2018. "Transparency, Reproducibility, and the Credibility of Economics Research," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 56(3), pages 920-980, September.
    2. repec:gam:jgames:v:9:y:2018:i:4:p:73-:d:171360 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Samuel Bazzi & Matthew Gudgeon, 2017. "The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2018-005, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    4. Alain Cohn & Michel André Maréchal, 2016. "Priming in economics," ECON - Working Papers 226, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    5. Chiara Ravetti & Mare Sarr & Tim Swanson & Daniel Munene, 2017. "Discrimination and favouritism among workers: union membership and ethnic identity," CIES Research Paper series 57-2017, Centre for International Environmental Studies, The Graduate Institute.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Ethnic preferences; Discrimination; Cooperation; Priming;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • F63 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Economic Development

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