Playing Nice in the Sandbox: on the Role of Heterogeneity, Trust and Cooperation in Common-Pool Resources

Fijnanda van Klingeren (Nuffield College, University of Oxford).

The increasing heterogeneity of populations affects cooperation in common-pool resources in a time where the depletion of natural resources is a growing problem. This study investigates the effects of economic and sociocultural heterogeneity on trust and cooperation in common-pool resources using a laboratory experiment. The experiment comprises two Investment Games and a Common-Pool Resource Game, with a sample of 344 subjects from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. By measuring the effects of economic and sociocultural heterogeneity separately as well as combined, this study disentangles the effects of specific heterogeneity types on cooperation in common-pool resources; something that has not been done before. Higher levels of trusting behaviour are found to have a positive effect on cooperation on the micro- and macro-level over time. While theory suggests negative effects of both forms of heterogeneity on cooperation through decreased levels of trust, the results show a surprising positive effect of economic heterogeneity on cooperation, but a negative effect if economic and sociocultural heterogeneity are combined. This study concludes that economic inequality can promote cooperation in CPRs, unless this inequality is lined up with sociocultural differences.

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