Research Seminar | Building Cooperation Across Ethnic Groups with Interpersonal Monetary Transfers: A Field Experiment in Post-war Liberia
The erosion of relationships between ethnic groups in war-torn societies carries significant repercussions, escalating from simple outgroup avoidance to outright physical violence. There is an urgent need for policies addressing these dynamics. In our research, we introduce an innovative approach based on the principle of positive reciprocity as a crucial foundation for intergroup cooperation. We argue that ethnic conflicts diminish mutual trust, heightening suspicions and amplifying prejudice and discrimination. We hypothesize that targeting individuals' perceptions about the cooperative tendencies of outgroup members can rebuild trust in postwar settings. To validate this, we piloted a field experimental intervention in post-conflict Liberia, employing interpersonal monetary transfers between individuals of different ethnicities. Before the intervention, participants displayed strong prejudice against out-group members. Participants initially exhibited significant prejudice against outgroup members. Once informed of their donor's ethnicity, those funded by non-coethnic donors showed notably less prejudice than their counterparts backed by coethnic donors, an impact observed even a year later. Preliminary results from the dictator game similarly revealed the treatment group's more equitable fund distribution. Importantly, the treatment group also expected reduced prejudice and more balanced fund allocation from outgroup members, underscoring the importance of expected reciprocity in shaping interethnic relations. These findings underscore the potential of interpersonal transfers in bridging ethnic divides, pointing towards a promising avenue for post-conflict reconciliation efforts.
Joan Barceló is an assistant professor of political science at New York University in Abu Dhabi. His current projects focus on the micro-level causes and consequences of conflict. He is interested in a variety of topics, including conflict, terrorism, political identities, historical legacies, and political behavior.