Theme 1: Causes of Conflict

Temperature and Out-group Discrimination


Participating Members: Danny Choi (Pittsburgh), Mathias Poertner (Texas A&M), and Nicholas Sambanis (Penn)


High temperatures have been linked to aggression and different forms of conflict in humans. We consider whether exposure to heat waves increases discriminatory behavior toward outgroups. Using data from two large-scale field experiments in Germany, we find a direct causal effect of exposure to heat shocks on discrimination in helping behavior. As temperature rises, German natives faced with a choice to provide help to strangers in every-day interactions help Muslim immigrants less than they do other German natives, while help rates toward natives are unaffected by temperature. This finding suggests that there may be a physiological basis for discriminatory behavior toward outgroups..


Parochialism, Social Norms, and Discrimination against Immigrant Minorities in Europe


Participating Members: Danny Choi (Penn), Mathias Poertner (UC Berkeley), and Nicholas Sambanis (Penn)


As cross-border immigration increases due to economic globalization, wars, and climate change, there is more interaction between host and immigrant populations and more potential for inter-group conflict due to ethnic and religious differences. To reduce inter-group conflict, policymakers have emphasized the need to better integrate immigrants in host societies, so as to forge a common set of rules and norms concerning the boundaries of appropriate behavior. We provide real-word experimental evidence from Germany that ethno-religious differences cause bias and discrimination in everyday interactions between host and immigrant groups. We also show that cultural integration signaled through immigrants’ enforcement of local norms reduces, but does not eliminate, bias.  An implication of our findings is that, as long as public debates and policies heighten the importance of ethno-religious markers, cultural integration will not be able to eliminate inter-group conflict.


Effects of Economics Austerity on Pro-Sociality: Evidence from Greece
Authors: Nicholas Sambanis (Penn), Anna Schultz (Penn), and Elena Nikolova (University College London)
The European debt crisis gave rise to policies of fiscal austerity designed to instill discipline and return economies to growth after a short-lived period of structural adjustment. Greece received several bailouts conditional on implementing severe spending cuts and structural reforms. These policies – many of them poorly implemented – led to a prolonged period of recession. While the economic effects of austerity policies and the political causes of the crisis have been studied extensively, less is known about their social impact. We explore the effects of the crisis on pro-sociality using new household-level survey data and quasi-behavioral evidence from Greece. We focus on the effects of joblessness, the most severe outcome of the economic downturn. We find a strong relationship between job loss and decreased generalized solidarity. We find evidence of ingroup bias in charitable giving; the bias is more pronounced among individuals with greater exposure to the consequences of austerity policies. However, this bias is only weakly mediated by beliefs that foreigners are to blame for the economic crisis.
Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy
Authors: Nicholas Sambanis, Paul Collier, Lani Elliott, Havard Hegre, Anke Hoeffler, and Marta Reynal-Querol
Most wars are now civil wars. Even though international wars attract enormous global attention, they have become infrequent and brief. Civil wars usually attract less attention, but they have become increasingly common and typically go on for years. This report argues that civil war is now an important issue for development. War retards development, but conversely, development retards war. This double causation gives rise to virtuous and vicious circles. Where development succeeds, countries become progressively safer from violent conflict, making subsequent development easier. Where development fails, countries are at high risk of becoming caught in a conflict trap in which war wrecks the economy and increases the risk of further war. The global incidence of civil war is high because the international community has done little to avert it. Inertia is rooted in two beliefs: that we can safely ‘let them fight it out among themselves; and that ‘nothing can be done’ because civil war is driven by ancestral ethnic and religious hatreds. The purpose of this report is to challenge these beliefs.
Violence Exposure and Ethnic Identification: Evidence from Kashmir
Participating Members: Gautam Nair (Yale) and Nicholas Sambanis (Penn)
This project studies the conditions that lead peripheral minorities to identify with the state, their ethnic group, or neighboring countries. We contribute to research on separatism and irredentism by examining how violence, psychological distance, and national status determine identification. The analysis uses data from a novel experiment that randomized videos of actual violence in a large, representative survey of the Kashmir Valley region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, an enduring site of separatist and irredentist conflict. We find that a strong regional identity is a counter-weight to irredentism, but violent repression by the state can push members of the minority to identify with an irredentist neighbor. Violence increases perceived distance from the nation and reduces national identification. There is suggestive evidence that these effects are concentrated among individuals with attributes that otherwise predict higher levels of identification with the state. An increase in national status brought about by economic growth and information about integrative institutions are insufficient to induce national identification in a context where psychological distance from the nation is large.