Religion, Minority Status and Trust: Evidence from a Field Experiment
It is now well accepted that trust is crucial for economic and social development. There is also evidence that religion strongly affects how individuals act when interacting with others. The same is true of status. Using a field experiment conducted in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, two regions, which are similar in terms of socioeconomic characteristics, ethnicity and language but have different religious composition, this paper examines whether religion or minority status affect trusts among different segments of the population. Our results show that it is minority status rather than religion that drives behavior. In both countries individuals belonging to the minority group (Muslims in West Bengal and Hindus in Bangladesh) exhibit positive in-group bias in trust behavior, while individuals belonging to the majority group in both countries (Hindus in West Bengla and Muslims in Bangladesh) show positive out-group bias in trustworthiness. The driver of this bias is however different across the two countries. Finally we find that the extent of in-group bias is systematically higher for religious individuals than non-religious individuals.
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