A young up-and-coming empirical scholar at Hebrew University, Netta Barak-Corren, passed along her summary of a recent paper that considers such questions as: How do social diversity's negative effects distribute? What mechanisms help explain the relationship between diversity and discriminatory behaviors and why do they vary in prevalence and strength across locations? Netta's post follows.
“Folks working on issues related to discrimination and bias might find interest in a recent paper that studied the impact of local context on patterns of discrimination. In Intergroup Behavioral Strategies as Contextually Determined: Experimental Evidence from Israel, Ryan D. Enos and Noam Gidron (Harvard) report the results of multisite lab-in-the-field experiments and survey responses collected across 20 locations. Participants played dictator and public good games against in-group and out-group members.
The researchers found large variation in the extent of discriminatory behavior conditioned on the level of diversity and segregation at each location they studied. The methodological conclusions are particularly interesting. Enos and Gidron demonstrate how 'different conclusions would be reached by locating a study in different locations, even within the same country.' They emphasize the implications for research design: 'Because behavior is a function of context as well as of the players, scholars may observe the operation of different mechanisms depending on the location chosen for research.' For example, they show that researchers may study the same behavior (in-group bias), use the same measures (dictator and public good games), and recruit participants from the same populations and still get substantially different results depending on the location of their lab. Comparing pairs of cities with similar population proportions but different levels of segregation they show that a study conducted in the more segregated city would yield stronger results of in-group bias than the same study conducted in the less segregated city. The authors offer some practical suggested for future experimental studies.”