In sub-Saharan Africa, traditional religious beliefs, including belief in witchcraft, black magic, or fetishism, are widespread. Some have hypothesized that these beliefs help to sustain cooperative behavior in a setting where the state is often absent. Others have documented that, at least at a macro-level, such beliefs are negatively associated with prosocial behavior. Le Rossignol, Lowes, and Nunn contribute to a better understanding of the causal effects of these traditional religious beliefs by using lab-in-the-field experiments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Participants complete a range of experimental tasks where one player chooses whether to act in a pro-social manner towards another player. Participants are randomly assigned to another player that has either a strong or weak belief in witchcraft and this information is known by the players. The researchers find that participants act less prosocially towards randomly-assigned partners who believe more strongly in witchcraft. Le Rossignol, Lowes, and Nunn also find that antisocial behavior is more socially acceptable and prosocial behavior less socially acceptable when playing with a partner who believes more strongly in witchcraft. Their findings suggest that the negative relationship between witchcraft and prosocial outcomes observed in the data may, in fact, be due to causal effect of the presence of traditional witchcraft beliefs on people’s behavior.
Bazzi, Hilmy, and Marx study the competition between public and religious schools and its consequences for nation building. In the 1970s, a landmark mass schooling effort in Indonesia aimed to secularize education and to curb religious influence in society. The regime built 61,000 public elementary schools, seeking in part to upend a longstanding Islamic school system. Using novel data on Islamic school construction and curriculum, the researchers identify short-run effects on exposed cohorts as well as dynamic, long-run effects on education markets. While primary enrollment shifted towards state schools, religious education increased on net as Islamic secondary schools absorbed the higher demand for continued education. The Islamic sector not only entered new markets to compete with the state but also increased religious curriculum at newly created schools. While exposed cohorts are not more attached to secular principles, they report greater religiosity and transmit these religious values to the next generation. Overall, the ideological competition in education undermined the nation-building impacts of mass schooling.
Bursztyn, Chaney, Hassan, and Rao study how decades-long exposure to individuals of a given foreign descent shapes natives' attitudes and behavior toward that group, exploiting plausibly exogenous shocks to the ancestral composition of US counties. The researchers combine several existing large-scale surveys, cross-county data on implicit prejudice, a newly-collected national survey, and individualized donations data from large charitable organizations. Bursztyn, Chaney, Hassan, and Rao first show that greater long-term exposure to Arab-Muslims: i) decreases both explicit and implicit prejudice against Arab-Muslims, ii) reduces support for policies and political candidates hostile toward Arab-Muslims, iii) increases charitable donations to Arab countries, iv) leads to more personal contact with Arab-Muslim individuals, and v) increases knowledge of Arab-Muslims and Islam in general. The researchers then generalize their analysis, showing that exposure to any given foreign ancestry leads to more altruistic behavior toward that group.
In addition to the conference paper, the research was distributed as NBER Working Paper w28448, which may be a more recent version.
This paper proposes a new framework for studying the interplay between culture and institutions. Acemoglu and Robinson follow the recent sociology literature and interpret culture as a "repertoire", which allows rich cultural responses to changes in the environment and shifts in political power. Specifically, they start with a culture set, which consists of attributes and the feasible connections between them. Combinations of attributes produce cultural configurations, which provide meaning, interpretation and justification for individual and group actions. Cultural configurations also legitimize and support different institutional arrangements. Culture matters as it shapes the set of feasible cultural configurations and via this channel institutions. Yet, changes in politics and institutions can cause a rewiring of existing attributes, generating very different cultural configurations. Cultural persistence may result from the dynamics of political and economic factors---rather than being a consequence of an unchanging culture. The researchers distinguish cultures by how fluid they are---whereby more fluid cultures allow a richer set of cultural configurations. Fluidity in turn depends on how specific (vs. abstract) and entangled (vs. free-standing) attributes in a culture set are. Acemoglu and Robinson illustrate these ideas using examples from African cultures, England, China, Islam, the Indian caste system and the Crow. In all cases, their interpretation highlights that culture becomes more of a constraint when it is less fluid (more hardwired), for example because its attributes are more specific or entangled. The researchers also emphasize that less fluid cultures are not necessarily "bad cultures", and create a range of benefits, though they may reduce the responsiveness of culture to changing circumstances. In many instances, including in the African, Chinese and English cases, Acemoglu and Robinson show that there is a lot of fluidity and very different, almost diametrically-opposed, cultural configurations are feasible, often compete with each other for acceptance and can gain the upper hand depending on political factors.
Siniscalchi and Veronesi propose an overlapping-generation model wherein researchers belong to two groups, M or F, and established researchers evaluate new researchers. Group imbalance obtains even with group-neutral evaluations and identical productivity distributions. Evaluators’ self-image bias and mild between-group heterogeneity in equally productive research characteristics lead the initially dominant group, say M, to promote scholars with characteristics similar to theirs. Promoted researchers are few and similar to M-researchers, perpetuating imbalance. Candidates’ career concerns and institutions’ hiring practices exacerbate talent loss. Mentorship reduces group imbalance, but increases F-group talent loss. Affirmative action reduces both. Their mechanism explains existing evidence and suggests different policies.
This paper offers a comprehensive account of the intergenerational transmission of education across religious groups in Africa, home to some of the world's largest Christian and Muslim communities. First, Hohmann, Michalopoulos, and Papaioannou use census data from 20 countries to construct new upward and downward religion-specific intergenerational mobility (IM) statistics. Christian boys and girls have much higher upward and lower downward mobility than Muslims and Animists. Muslims perform well only in a handful of countries where they are small minorities. Second, the researchers trace the roots of these disparities. Although family structures differ across faiths, this variation explains only a small fraction of the observed IM inequities (roughly 12%). Inter-religious differences in occupational specialization and urban residence do not play any role. In contrast, regional features explain nearly half of the imbalances in educational mobility. Third, Hohmann, Michalopoulos, and Papaioannou isolate the causal impact of regions from spatial sorting exploiting information on children whose households moved when they were at different ages during childhood. Irrespective of the religious identity, regional exposure effects are present for all children moving before 12. Fourth, the researchers map and characterize the religious IM gaps across thousands of African regions. Among numerous regional geographic, economic, and historical features, the district's Muslim share is the most important correlate. Children adhering to Islam underperform Christians in areas with substantial Muslim communities. Fifth, survey data reveal that Muslims display stronger in-group preferences and place a lower valuation on education. Their findings call for more research on the origins of religious segregation and the role of religion-specific, institutional, and social conventions on education and opportunity.
This paper examines the evolution of political outcomes in Civil War Refugee Camps, where 660,000 out of the 3.9 million enslaved African Americans achieved and experienced freedom for the first time. Refugee Camps were sites of African American empowerment, where racially progressive politics enjoyed an electoral advantage in the short and long runs. This persistence masks a backlash that befell in the first decades of the 20th century, when white voters overturned the progressive legacy. How did progressive politics re-emerge? African American’s successful educational engagement in refugee camps enabled durable lower illiteracy rates and higher social status, which fostered inter-group contact in educational spaces and the workplace by the second half of the 20th century. Ultimately, these interactions triggered a transmission of views and political preferences from African Americans to white Americans. All in all, this paper shows that the process through which slavery ended, and not only slavery itself, had a lasting impact on the US’s political landscape.