Does commonness fill the common fund? Experimental evidence on the role of identity for public good contributions in India

Bruhan Konda, Stephan Dietrich & Eleonora Nillesen


We examine how the type of common identity affects voluntary contribution to public goods in groups that differ in their social image. We conjecture that groups with perceived high-status identity engage in higher levels of collective action compared to groups with perceived low-status identity. We study this using a lab-in-the-field experiment in rural India with members from the top and bottom of the caste hierarchy. Using a 2-person public good game, we empirically test (i) whether a caste gap in contributions emerges when group identities are made salient (ii) whether these differences are driven by the presence of punishment, and (iii) whether exogenously boosting caste identities by a role model prime diminishes the caste gap. Our results show that stereotyped groups fail to act collectively to provide public goods, possibly due to lack of trust towards their own group members. This gap disappears after the role model priming treatment and reaffirms the role of social identity in explaining the difference in contributions between groups that differ in the social image.

Keywords: Common identity, Caste, Public goods, Lab-in-the-field experiment

JEL Classification: C91, D64, D91, H41

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