Which social categories matter to people: An experiment

Wifag Adnan, K. Peren Arin, Gary Charness, Juan A. Lacomba, Francisco Lagos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social categories matter to people, but it is not obvious ex ante which ones matter more. To explore this, we conduct a novel experimental market of anonymous partners based on social categories. Participants have the option of choosing or discarding a peer according to their gender, ethnicity, and religion. Our research design allows us to explore whether individuals prioritize social categories when selecting a peer and whether the order in which social categories are prioritized is context dependent. Considering both free and costly decisions, two economic contexts are evaluated: donations (dictator game) and investments (risk game). We find that when selecting a partner, gender appears to be the dominant social category across different conditions, with subjects exhibiting sharp preferences for being matched with a female partner. However, the partner's religion gains prominence as a requested social category when issues concerning social-group decision-making become relevant to one's own payoffs. Finally, we find that choosing social categories seems to have economic consequences both by increasing economic donations and increasing investments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-145
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Discrimination
  • Donation
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Investment
  • Religion
  • Social categories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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