Impact of social identity and inequality on antisocial behaviour

Lata Gangadharan, Philip J. Grossman, Mana Komai Molle, Joe Vecci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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 and exogenously formed social groups to capture social identity. We find that, in settings where social identity is unknown relative to a setting where social identity is known, low-income participants are more antisocial towards others with the same income identity. We also show that sharing the same social identity mitigates this behaviour. In contrast, there are no differences in the behaviour of high-income participants across the different settings. The targeting of antisocial behaviour by low-income individuals is partially 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 socially. Our findings suggest that the context in which inequality exists may have important effects on antisocial behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-215
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Economic Review
Volume119
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

Keywords

  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Experiment
  • Income inequality
  • Natural groups
  • Social identity

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