This study considers how ethnic trust and minority status can impact the ability of ethnic groups to pursue cooperative public goods, focusing on groups with a history of conflict and lingering hostility. A public good experiment between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in postwar Kosovo reveals that subjects contribute far more to a mutually beneficial public good when they are part of an experimentally induced coethnic majority. However, when in the minority, subjects not only underinvest, but many actively divest entirely, privatizing the public good. Majority/minority status also has wide-ranging implications for how individuals relate to real-world public goods and the institutions of government that provide them. Compared to majority Albanians, survey data indicate how minority Serbs in Kosovo express greater safety and security concerns, feel more politically, socially, and economically excluded, are more dissatisfied with civil liberties and human rights protections, and are less likely to participate politically or pay taxes to support public goods. Conflict-related victimization and distrust of out-groups are strong predictors of these minority group attitudes and behaviors. This suggests a mechanism for how conflict amplifies out-group distrust, increasing parochial bias in public good commitments, especially among minorities who are wary of exploitation at the hands of an out-group majority. To restore trust, this study finds that institutional trust and intergroup contact are important to bridging ethnic divides that inhibit public good cooperation.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.