December 7, 2022



  • Course Evaluations
  • Key Lessons
  • Limiting Ethnic Conflict
  • What can we do?

Course Evaluations

Key Lessons


We started off trying to answer:

  • What is ethnicity?
  • Why does ethnic conflict occur?
  • Why does ethnic violence occur?


Answers to these questions vary across contexts, but we have three sets of tools to explain:

  • Strategic
  • Psychological
  • Structural

What is Ethnicity?

Ethnicity takes a variety of forms:

  • We have to see how people label themselves and others strategically
  • Ethnic choices reflect cognitive limits and social esteem
  • Ethnicity embedded in shared understanding, relations of power

Why Ethnic Conflict?

  • Ethnic groups more effectively mobilized in competition over resources/power
  • Zero-sum status competition between ethnic groups generate conflict
  • Structures that institutionalize and generate disparities between ethnic groups lead to conflict

Why Ethnic Violence?

  • Violence can be used to win elections, extract resources
  • Perceived status threats, moral transgressions, stereotypes drive individuals to participate in violence
  • Media that justifies or encourages violence also increases ethnic violence

Reducing Violence and Conflict

Can these same tools reduce violence and conflict?


Electoral incentives to win votes of ethnic out-group leads parties to limit violence against them. (Wilkinson 2004; Nellis, Weaver & Rosenzweig 2016)

Rules/procedures that ensure fair distribution of state “goodies” limits incentives for ethnic conflict (Chandra 2004)

Constitutional/electoral rules that encourage vote-pooling, limits consequences of losing elections reduce conflict (Horowitz 1985)


Contact Hypothesis: Allport (1954)

prejudice/negative stereotypes of other groups may be reduced by personal contact with members of the group when that contact…

  • is among people of equal status
  • involves pursuit of common goals
  • is sanctioned by institutions (law, custom)
  • can reveal common interests

Evidence is Mixed

Paluck, Green, and Green 2019

Focus on results of studies where contact is randomly assigned and prejudice measured at least 1 day later.

  • Only 27 contact studies that were experiments
  • Who is studied? (~ 1/4 study adults over age 25)
  • What kind of prejudice (~3/5 study ethnicity)
  • What kind of contact? (mostly short, scripted, lacking common goal or cooperation)
  • What outcome? (explicit/implicit prejudice, behaviors)

Evidence is Mixed


  • 24 out of 27 find reductions in prejudice (\(p < 0.001\))
  • Effect is very weak in larger, better designed experiments
  • Effect is smaller in ethnic prejudice studies >- Few studies attempt to explore sustained, collaborative contact in realistic settings

Lowe (2020)

Caste in Rural India

  • Can cooperative contact vs adversarial contact reduce caste prejudice?
  • Randomized experiment in local cricket league
  • Cooperation reduces prejudiced attitudes and behavior

Mo and Conn (2018)

Race in the United States:

  • Teach For America: community service organization
  • place top university graduates as teachers in low-income schools
  • 80% of students in these schools are African American or Latinx
  • use TFA admission score threshold for “natural experiment”

Does participation in TFA reduce racial prejudice, increase empathy with racial outgroup?

Mo and Conn (2018)

As-if random assignment to TFA…

  • increases perceptions of systematic injustice and inequality
  • decreases racial prejudice
  • increases positive assessment of racial minorities


Do these psychological findings have an effect at a larger scale?

Need to investigate whether structural changes can reduce conflict.


Mohamed Salah, Muslim star for FC Liverpool

  • high profile public image reduces Islamophobia?
  • Compare change in hate crimes in Liverpool vs other similar cities

Alrababa’h et al (2021)


Medieval Trade in India and Hindu-Muslim Violence

  • Coastal towns saw collaborative trade between Muslims and Hindus due to Hajj
  • What if Muslim traders picked towns that were already more welcoming?
  • Compare coastal towns with and without natural harbors for “random” allocation of Muslim traders
  • Does legacy of inter-group collaboration reduce violence?

Jha (2013)

Medieval port cities (Muslim traders) had fewer riots in 19th-20th century:


Civil War and Black Freedom

  • Republican party abolished slavery, laws granting/protecting new rights
  • Why did racist white voters accept this?
  • Union Army vets and Black Americans: shared enemy, wartime collaboration, what was won?

Weaver (2022)

In places with more soldiers support for Black voting rights \(\uparrow\)