Group Identification and the Collaboration Effect (WP-17-17)


Mary McGrath

How do we distinguish the deserving from the undeserving poor? Collaboration shifts our distributive preferences, increasing our willingness to give up resources for someone who has less. A sense of shared group membership with one's collaborator appears to play an important role in this effect. This paper presents evidence on the relationship between group identification and the collaboration effect. An initial experiment and a replication study show that respondents treat collaborators differently when the collaborator is a member of a racial out-group. Furthermore, respondents with a “High-Group” outlook appear to be more sensitive to collaboration, suggesting heterogeneous treatment effects corresponding with grid-group cultural theory. Investigation of the mechanism suggests that the collaboration effect operates by creating a sense of indebtedness to the partner, and an initial test indicates that the effect of collaboration may reach beyond the immediate context of the collaboration, altering reported preferences for federal spending on welfare. 

Mary McGrath, Assistant Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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