Understanding Ethnic Identity in Africa: Evidence from the Implicit Association Test (IAT)

Sara Lowes, Nathan Nunn, James A. Robinson, and Jonathan L. Weigel. 2015. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 105, 5, Pp. 1-8. Coverage by VoxEU.


Despite the salience of ethnicity in African politics, recent experimental research finds little evidence of intrinsic coethnic bias. We develop a new measure of ethnic bias that is less sensitive to experimenter demand effects and other forms of measurement error. Specifically, we argue that a tablet-based implicit association test (IAT) mitigates measurement error concerns associated with studying interethnic preferences. Using this measure, we document evidence of coethnic bias among subjects in Kananga, D.R. Congo. We also show that survey-based measures of interethnic preferences are affected by experimenter demand effects, while the IAT measure is not. The implicit association test therefore has potential to advance the study of ethnicity in Africa and elsewhere.