Sociology Capstone Paper

Are Diverse Societies More Prosocial? Explaining Inter-Society Variation in Altruism

Abstract: Pure classical and neoclassical economic theory suggests that individuals are relentlessly individualistic, self-interested beings with little regard for the benefit of others. The dictator game challenges this belief, suggesting that people are more innately altruistic than this simplified understanding provides for. This paper leverages the dictator game to examine inter-societal variations in altruism, focusing specifically on the effect of diversity and social trust. I examine over one-hundred dictator games conducted over two decades and across twenty-six countries. To my knowledge, this is the first paper to take such an approach and one of few to examine the connection between diversity, social trust, and altruism. I find that there is little to no connection between trust in institutions, a proxy for social trust, and mean dictator game offers, a measure of altruism. I also find a strong positive connection between ethnic fractionalization and altruism; all else equal, an increase in EFI by 0.1 predicts as much as a 3.4% increase in average dictator game offer. The opposite is true of religious fractionalization, and no clear relationship exists between income inequality and altruism. Far from a comprehensive, definitive analysis, this paper serves as an important jumping-off point for future social scientific research related to altruism and social contexts.


Research Poster