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Impact of Social Identity and Inequality on Antisocial Behaviour

Lata Gangadharan, Philip Grossman (), Mana Komai and Joe Vecci

No 01-18, Monash Economics Working Papers from Monash University, Department of Economics

Abstract: Antisocial behaviour can be observed in response to social comparisons with advantaged others. This paper uses a laboratory experiment to examine if social group affiliation mitigates or increases antisocial behaviour in the presence of inequality. While research has documented the harmful effects of inequality, less is known about how social identity may interact with income inequality to influence antisocial behaviour. In our experiment, participants play a modified version of an investment game in which they can reduce others’ payoff at a cost to themselves. Participants are identified by their income groups and/or social groups. We use naturally occurring, exogenous social groups to capture social identity and vary the combination of income identity and social identity. We find little difference in rates of antisocial behaviour across the environments. However, in a setting with revealed social identity and income identity we observe a redirection in antisocial behaviour relative to a setting in which social identity is not revealed. We find that low income participants are more likely to be antisocial towards someone from a different income or social group. In contrast, high income participants do not vary their behaviour. The targeting of antisocial behaviour by low income individuals is consistent with our theoretical framework and suggests that identity politics causes low income people who are already in conflict with one another to shift their blame culturally. Our findings suggest that the context in which inequality exists may have important effects on antisocial behaviour. Classification-JEL Codes: C91, D003, D6

Keywords: Social Identity; Income inequality; Antisocial behaviour; Experiment; Natural groups (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 36 pages
Date: 2019-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp and nep-soc
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