Churches as informal insurance networks: Prosociality, fairness, and insecurity in the D.R. Congo

Humans are often more prosocial than economic theory predicts. But individuals facing material insecurity have strong reasons to be selfish. The small stakes often used in behavioral games could actually make a difference for participants who are uncertain about whether they can provide sufficient food for their families. Nonetheless, this paper finds that highly materially insecure individuals in the urban D.R. Congo give even more to receivers in the dictator game relative to less insecure individuals. They are much more likely to share the money equally. I argue that this positive relationship between material insecurity and prosociality is explained by fairness norms associated with church-based informal insurance networks.