Religion, leadership, and coordination: Evidence from a lab experiment in the field

Policy brief State

  • Coordinating economic actions across individuals can be critical to resolving collective action problems and market failures. Coordination – i.e., the ability to work together effectively – may be necessary for escaping poverty traps, for changing social norms, for optimising resource use on common land, or for improving the provision of public goods.
  • This study uses a coordination game to investigate whether introducing leaders facilitates coordination. The authors focus on the difference in coordination achieved by leaders of different religious identities. We conducted lab-in-the-field experiments with over 1,000 respondents across 44 towns in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India.
  • The authors find that leaders from religious minorities (Muslims in India) improve coordination, while leaders from the religious majority do not.
  • It is also shown that inter-group contact improves coordination irrespective of leader identity but affirmative action leads to a deterioration in coordination in the minority-led group, and increased coordination in groups led by majority leaders.