Trust, Cooperation, and Collective Action in Diverse Communities

This project will investigate how people view and respond to racial/ethnic diversity in their communities. An underlying premise is that people may respond to diversity differently depending on the specific racial/ethnic groups that make up that diversity. The first part of the project will examine how people from different racial/ethnic backgrounds define diversity, followed by distinguishing heterogeneity from the share of non-Whites in a community. The second part asks whether and how people learn from past cross-racial interactions and become trusting toward strangers from different racial/ethnic backgrounds. The third part of this project studies neighborhoods in a large urban city where diversity functions well, i.e., where neighbors have repeatedly organized to achieve common goals, despite racial/ethnic differences between them. In this phase of the research, the project investigates the mechanisms, such as information sharing and sanctioning, that successfully promote cooperation between people from different backgrounds. The project will create a research practicum for advanced undergraduate students and graduate students that will focus on experimental research methods. The project will also continue and expand upon an ongoing initiative that has created an experimental design workshop. This workshop brings together experimental social scientists from across the university to exchange ideas and receive feedback on original experimental research. A final educational initiative will involve a weeklong summer school on the topic of experiments in the social sciences, which will be open to Ph.D. students from several local universities. The project will provide insights useful in formulating and implementing policies such as those concerning affirmative action, immigration and residential integration.

This project will first clarify the meaning of diversity and the burden-of-proof for documenting the effects of diversity. Second, it will analyze how members of racial/ethnic minority groups, not just Whites, react to diversity. Third, it will bring innovative experimental methods to bear on questions of longstanding sociological interest. To shed light on understandings of diversity, the first part of this project relies on a conjoint experiment with a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, including strategic oversamples of non-Whites. A second part involves a public goods game where participants are assigned to heterogeneous groups, homogeneously White groups, or homogeneously non-White groups. The goal is to understand how people respond not just to diversity, but also to the share of specific racial/ethnic groups. The third part involves recruiting White and non-White residents of diverse and homogeneous urban neighborhoods. These participants will participate in an online survey with behavioral game components. The behavioral games capture altruism, trust, and cooperativeness toward both in-group and out-group members. They also allow the researcher to address social desirability bias, to observe real-stakes behavior, to disentangle micro-level motivations and mechanisms, and to clarify the scope conditions around hypotheses. Taken together, this project will bring clarity to the growing but inconclusive social scientific literature on racial/ethnic diversity, both by informing theories of diversity and by producing new empirical findings regarding intergroup relations in diverse communities.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

July 01, 2019