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Can social contact reduce prejudice and discrimination? Evidence from a field experiment in Nigeria

Alexandra Scacco / Shana S. Warren (2018)

Key facts

Journal/Publisher
American Political Science Review
Type of publication
Journal article
Elements of social cohesion
Cooperation
Intergroup relations
Other (Acceptance of diversity (bias: intergroup))
Geographical focus
Nigeria
Main thematic areas
Youth

Summary

Can positive social contact between members of antagonistic groups reduce prejudice and discrimination? Despite extensive research on social contact, observational studies are difficult to interpret because prejudiced people may select out of contact with out-group members. We overcome this problem by conducting an education-based, randomized field experiment—the Urban Youth Vocational Training program (UYVT)—with 849 randomly sampled Christian and Muslim young men in riot-prone Kaduna, Nigeria. After sixteen weeks of positive intergroup social contact, we find no changes in prejudice, but heterogeneous-class subjects discriminate significantly less against out-group members than subjects in homogeneous classes. We trace this finding to increased discrimination by homogeneous-class subjects compared to non-UYVT study participants, and we highlight potentially negative consequences of in-group social contact. By focusing on skill-building instead of peace messaging, our intervention minimizes reporting bias and offers strong experimental evidence that intergroup social contact can alter behavior in constructive ways, even amid violent conflict.

Cover-page_2018_Alexandra Scacco / Shana S. Warren

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