Article written by Delia Baldassarri and 2007 DPDF The Political Economy of Redistribution Fellow Guy Grossman:
Social life is regulated by norms of fairness that constrain selfish behavior. While a substantial body of scholarship on prosocial behavior has provided evidence of such norms, large inter- and intra-personal variation in prosocial behavior still needs to be explained. The article identifies two social-structural dimensions along which people’s generosity varies systematically: group attachment and social position. We conducted lab-in-the-field experiments involving 2,597 members of producer organizations in rural Uganda. Using different variants of the dictator game, we demonstrate that group attachment positively affects prosocial behavior, and that this effect is not simply the by-product of the degree of proximity between individuals. Second, we show that occupying a formal position in an organization or community leads to greater generosity toward in-group members. Taken together, our findings show that prosocial behavior is not an invariant social trait; rather, it varies according to individuals’ relative position in the social structure.