Social Identity, Group Composition and Public Good Provision: An Experimental Study

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Economics


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Chakravarty S (2014) The effect of social fragmentation on public good provision: An experimental study in Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics

Description Social identity matters in determining economic outcomes. Public good provision in our experiment was systematically affected by the introduction of different social groups, even though the nature of these groups was irrelevant to the actual task being performed by participants.

Increasing social fragmentation leads to lower public good provision. This evidence is in line with existing evidence from the field, and highlights the importance of social identity in explaining the negative relationship between social fragmentation and economic performance.

As social fragmentation increases, people who make full contributions decreases, but the proportion of people who free ride or contribute nothing remains the same. Public good contributions decline as social fragmentation increases because the latter leads to disenfranchisement with their identity rather than self-serving behaviour.

A small amount of social fragmentation can lead to increase in contribution in comparison to completely homogenous groups. This is the most surprising finding of our project: there is an optimal level of (positive) diversity.

If individuals have the opportunity to contribute to club goods in addition to public goods, then they choose to contribute to club goods even if the monetary benefit from contributions to public good is higher.
Exploitation Route This project was designed to study the impact of social identity on behaviour using artificial groups. Therefore its findings are best used for the conceptual insights they bring, rather than for direct policy recommendations.

We envisaged this project would be most useful as a precursor to more applied research. Indeed, our findings have led to the design and development of a field experiment on religious fragmentation and its impact of behaviour in West Bengal in collaboration with the Centre for Studies in the Social Sciences in Kolkata, India. This new project has received funding from the ESRC/DfID Poverty Alleviation Programme.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

Title Identity and behavior dataset 
Description This dataset consists of decision data from subjects who took part in experiments on social identity and public good provision. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No impact has yet resulted from this data set.