An analysis of the preferences of individuals with multiple-group memberships and dually-identified individuals

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Economics


The proposed research will add to the literature on group-membership and social identity, through providing clarity on the effects of being a member of multiple groups. Theories of how groups form and the process by which individuals identify with groups have been put forward. In psychology, an area of multiple-identities that has been well-studied is that of dual-identity minority groups, "mainly on how dual identifiers feel and behave, and on the reactions they elicit from others." There has been some suggestion that being a dually-identified minority could in fact enhance well-being. However, within economics, the effects of multiple-group membership and its impact on contribution and cooperation has been understudied.

This question is important not only from a theoretical perspective, but also from the perspective of policy. In the real world, individuals do not solely belong to one group and belonging to multiple groups could provide a source of conflict in an individual's decision-making and affect their distributive preferences. Understanding how an individual makes decisions under these conditions is paramount to effective policy-making, for example, in the integration of ethnic minorities into a country where their ethnic identity could strongly conflict with their national identity.

My doctoral research will focus on the following questions.
- How are individuals' contributions to pure public goods affected by the presence of identity-specific club goods?
- How is punishment by a group against those who do not contribute affected by the presence of multiple identities?
- When presented with the opportunity to join one or multiple groups, how many does an individual choose to focus on?

These questions are important questions in economics as it extends the analysis of group membership further into the real-world, helping to create a framework for looking at multiple group tensions faced by an individual. What is more, these questions could help policy makers create and develop communities, in which individuals will inevitably have different pressures on their time, effort and money.

The first study that I carry out will address this first question. I will conduct an ambitious field experiment working with a minority community to see how the conflict in their identity affects their preferences. The set-up for this experiment will use a real-world public good design, with nested club goods. An individual will be given an endowment and the option of allocating the endowment across themselves, a choice of 2 club goods or a public good, allocating whatever proportion the individual sees fit. The two club goods will be based within the community and will involve two potentially conflicting aspects of their identity. The public goods would be on a larger scale than the community. This experiment will be combined with identity surveys, providing a measure of how strongly they identify with each of their groups. The primary hypothesis for this experiment is as follows:

Hypothesis: Contributions will be higher towards the club good associated with the more salient identity or the closest identity.

The following experiments would address the second and third questions and any further lines of inquiry that come out of my research. The design of these experiments will be informed by the results of my first experiment. As such, I will develop the second and third chapters during the course of the first year of my research.

As these economic experiments would involve human subjects, it is important to consider the ethical implications. The main points to note for these experiments is that the subjects will be informed fully when acquiring consent and that there will be no deception involved.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2249167 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2022 Ashley McCrea