Fairness and Ethnicity in the Aftermath of Ethnic Conflict:
The Dictator Game in Bosnia-Herzegovina.



Sam Whitt

University of Tennessee


Rick K. Wilson

Rice University

This study considers the effects of ethnic violence on norms of fairness. Once violence is a foregone conclusion, will cooperative norms ever (re-)emerge beyond ethnic boundaries? We use an experiment that measures how fairly individuals in a post-conflict setting treat their own in-group in comparison to the out-groups - in this case, examining the behavior of Muslims, Croats, and Serbs in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina. To assess fairness, we use the dictator game wherein subjects make decisions about how to allocate a sum of money between themselves and an anonymous counterpart of varying ethnicity. In total, 681 subjects took part in the experiment in locations across Bosnia. We find that the effects of ethnicity on decision-making are captured by our experiments. Although results indicate preferential in-group treatment, the incidence and magnitude of out-group bias is much less than expected for a post-war environment. We conclude that norms of fairness across ethnicity are remarkably strong in Bosnia, and we take this to be a positive sign for reconciliation after violent conflict.