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Race, altruism and trust: Experimental evidence from South Africa

Justine Claire Keswell, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This work examines the salience of group identity in explaining the behavior of high school students in South Africa, the first generation of post-apartheid school pupils. The evidence suggests that group identity matters, not only when it is a relatively temporary identity that is easily changed as in the case of school affiliation, but more particularly, for a binding identity such as race. However, group identity on its own may be insufficient to produce in-group favoritism, and its effect is different: depending on whether or not strategic concerns are present in the choice at hand. Moreover, it will depend on the extent of group connectedness, the permeability of group boundaries, the salience of the group identity and its correlation with socio-economic differences, and the evolving nature and composition of social institutions such as schools and peer groups. The evidence, for the most part, is encouraging, suggesting that as South African society continues to transform itself through greater efforts towards racial integration and reconciliation in every sphere of life, this will inevitably facilitate inter-group contact and friendships, which in turn will enhance miter-racial trust and empathy.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Keswell, Justine Claire, "Race, altruism and trust: Experimental evidence from South Africa" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3118310.