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Interaction, prejudice and Performance: Evidence from South Africa


We exploit random assignment of roommates in double rooms at University of Cape Town to investigate whether having a roommate of a different race affects inter-ethnic attitudes and academic performance. Our outcomes include Implicit Association Tests (IATs), survey-based measures, experimental games and administrative records. We find that living with a roommate of a different race significantly decreases prejudice towards members of that group, as measured by the IAT. We also find increases in inter-racial interactions among friends and study mates and a more general tendency to cooperate, as measured in a prisoner's dilemma game. We also find important effects of the policy on academic outcomes: blacks who share the room with non-blacks significantly improve their GPA, while the opposite occurs to whites who have non-white roommates. The latter effect is absent when we examine other academic outcomes, e.g. number of exams taken and probability of dropout: for these outcomes, the gains for blacks are not accompanied by corresponding losses for whites. The positive effect on performance among black students is stronger if they are paired with less-prejudiced roommates.

Eliana La Ferrara
Short bio: 

Eliana La Ferrara is full professor in Development Economics at Bocconi University in Milan. She received the Ph.D in Economics at Harvard University in 1999. She is research fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and of the Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research (IGIER). Therefore, she is Member of the European Development Research Network (EUDN). Her research interests are in Development economics, Public and Political economics.

03 July 2014 - 16:00

IRVAPP/Fondazione Bruno Kessler - Via Santa Croce 77 - Trento