Bridging the Gender Divide: An Experimental Analysis of Group Formation in African Villages

Studying assortative matching by gender in group formation in Zimbabwe
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This paper describes an experiment on assortative matching by gender conducted during the formation of economically useful groups in 14 Zimbabwean villages. People tend to interact with others who are similar to themselves. This tendency is called assortative matching by social scientists. The experiment explored the interplay between trust and social enforcement on one hand and gender assorting into groups on the other.

Villagers in the experiment formed groups in order to share risk. The study applied three treatments to investigate the effect of trust and social enforcement as opposed to formal enforcement on gender assorting. There was significant and considerable assorting into groups by gender in the control group. There was significantly less gender assorting, when group formation depended upon trust. Findings indicate that:

  • Trustworthiness is not gender differentiated;
  • Social ties are not gender assortative;
  • Effect of trust is concentrated within religious groups and family networks;
  • Religious and family networks facilitate information flows about individuals’ trustworthiness and allow for discerning decision making about whom to trust.

About this Publication

By Barr, A., Dekker, M. & Fafchamps, M