Race and Social Interactions in Postapartheid South Africa

Justine Burns

in Discrimination in an Unequal World

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199732166
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866144 | DOI:
Race and Social Interactions in Postapartheid South Africa

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This chapter reports evidence from experimental games, adapted to explicitly observe whether racial identity has any impact on social interactions among black-and-white South Africans. In the first “dictator game,” respondents are given an endowment of money and asked how much they would like to give to another participant. In the control cases, the race of the possible recipient is hidden. In others it is indicated by either surname or a photograph. In a second variant of such games, this time with a strategic element added, the initial gift is tripled and the recipient then asked how much she would like to give back to the initiating respondent. If the first set of games measures some element of generosity or altruism, the second emphasizes strategic trust. The results indicate that both socioeconomic context and racial identity matter. In all settings black initiators give away less money than their white counterparts, reflecting the much lower economic resources common in the black community (and thus the relative higher value of each monetary unit).

Keywords: racial discrimination; social interactions; racial identity; experimental games; altruism

Chapter.  7376 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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