Discussion paper

DP18866 Ethnic salience and discrimination

We report the results of three controlled experiments in which participants belonging to an ethnic majority group made choices that affected the payoff of another (“vulnerable”) participant who was either a member of the majority group or an ethnic minority group. Each of the experiments consisted of several experimental waves that varied in the extent to which issues related to ethnicity were salient to the decision makers. The variation in ethnic salience was the result of the differential timing of the experimental waves, and, in one of the experiments, was also the result of varying the information provided about the vulnerable participant's ethnic background. Across all three experiments, decision makers behaved more generously towards participants with a minority background in waves with high ethnic salience, while behavior towards participants from the majority was unaffected. Evidence is provided that the mechanism behind this result involves social desirability bias.


Murad, Z, E Ozturk, Y Sheng and S Suetens (2024), ‘DP18866 Ethnic salience and discrimination‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18866. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18866