Race, Ethnicity and Politics

Building intergroup trust through personal transfers: a field experiment in post-war Liberia



The erosion of intergroup relations in war-torn societies has important consequences, leading to harmful behaviors ranging from outgroup avoidance to discrimination to physical attacks. Urgent policy responses are required to overturn these patterns. In this project, we offer a novel approach. We theorize that a fundamental mechanism that underlies cooperation across individuals and groups is positive reciprocity. Ethnic wars disrupt mechanisms of intergroup reciprocal trust by making individuals wary of outgroup members, reinforcing patterns of intergroup prejudice and discrimination. Thus, we hypothesize that interventions that aim at shaping people’s beliefs about the cooperative preferences of outgroup members are likely to be effective at building trust and cooperation across members of opposed ethnic groups in postwar settings. For this purpose, we design and evaluate the effectiveness of a novel kind of intervention in reducing group-based prejudice in postwar Liberia: inter-ethnic personal transfers. i.e., cash transfers between individuals of different ethnic groups.


Thumbnail image of Jabateh_s_Barcelo_j_Personal Transfers and Intergroup Cohesion in Post-war Liberia_April_2022.pdf


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