Publications

Working Paper
Mahsa Akbari, Duman Bahrami-Rad, Erik Kimbrough, and Pedro Romero. Working Paper. “An experimental study of kin and ethnic favoritism”.Abstract
Experimental studies of favoritism and corruption typically examine such behavior among strangers, but ethnic and kinship ties have long been viewed as potential catalysts for favoritism, and hence corruption.
In this paper, we provide evidence from lab experiments on the effect of kinship and ethnic
ties on favoritism. We report behavior in a game where the first mover chooses whether to offer a
transfer payment and the second mover chooses to reject or accept it, and upon acceptance, whether
to incur a cost to provide a benefit to the first mover at the expense of third party. In three countries,
we recruit kin, co-ethnics and strangers to the lab and systematically vary the relationship(s) between
the players of the game to observe how kin and ethnic ties influence the willingness of the first- and
second-mover to benefit one another at the expense of a third party. We see kin favoritism in all societies,
but we find some evidence that the degree of ethnic favoritism, and favoritism towards other
in-group members (friends) varies. We provide evidence this may be related to kinship patterns, since
favoritism is more common in societies with more in-marriage and denser kin networks.
Duman Bahrami-Rad. Working Paper. “Keeping It in the Family: Female Inheritance, Inmarriage and the Status of Women”. Available on SSRNAbstract
While female property ownership is associated with positive outcomes for women, their right to inherit property in male-dominated societies may also result in more constraining marriage and gender norms. I discuss and test the hypothesis that where a woman inherits property, her male relatives are more likely to arrange her marriage to a cousin in order to divert her share of inheritance to themselves and avoid fragmentation of the family land. Arranging the marriage also requires controlling the woman’s premarital relations, which negatively impacts her participation in society. By analyzing three distinct datasets (on pre-industrial societies, Italian provinces, and Indonesian individuals), I find that female inheritance is associated with a higher prevalence of cousin and arranged marriages as well as lower female economic participation and premarital sexual freedom. Using a difference-in-differences design that exploits exogenous variation induced by a reform of inheritance laws in India, I also provide evidence for a causal effect of female inheritance on cousin marriage and female premarital sex rates. These findings have implications for the evolution of marriage and gender norms in Islamic societies, where female inheritance is mandated by Islamic law.
PDF
Jonathan Schulz, Duman Bahrami-Rad, Jonathan Beauchamp, and Joseph Henrich. Working Paper. “The Origins of WEIRD Psychology (R&R at Science)”. Available on PsyArXivAbstract
Recent research not only confirms the existence of substantial psychological variation around the globe but also highlights the peculiarity of populations that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD). We propose that much of this variation arose as people psychologically adapted to differing kin-based institutions — the set of social norms governing descent, marriage, residence and related domains. We further propose that part of the variation in these institutions arose historically from the Catholic Church’s marriage and family policies, which contributed to the dissolution of Europe’s traditional kin-based institutions, leading eventually to the predominance of nuclear families and impersonal institutions. By combining data on 20 psychological outcomes with historical measures of both kinship and Church exposure, we find support for these ideas in a comprehensive array of analyses across countries, among European regions and between individuals with different cultural backgrounds.
2019
Mahsa Akbari, Duman Bahrami-Rad, and Erik Kimbrough. 2019. “Kinship, Fractionalization and Corruption.” Forthcoming at Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. Available onlineAbstract
We examine the roots of variation in corruption across societies, and we argue that marriage practices and family structure are an important, overlooked determinant of corruption. By shaping patterns of relatedness and interaction, marriage practices influence the relative returns to norms of nepotism/favoritism versus norms of impartial cooperation. In-marriage (e.g. consanguineous marriage) generates fractionalization because it yields relatively closed groups of related individuals and thereby encourages favoritism and corruption. Out-marriage creates a relatively open society with increased interaction between non-relatives and strangers, thereby encouraging impartiality. We report a robust association between in-marriage practices and corruption both across countries and within countries. Instrumental variables estimates exploiting historical variation in preferred marriage practices and in exposure to the Catholic Church's family policies provide evidence that the relationship could be causal.
  • 2016 SSHRC Storytellers Award Winner. See the video here.