Cooperation in a fragmented society: experimental evidence on Syrian refugees and natives in Lebanon

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Lebanon is the country with the highest density of refugees in the world, raising the question of whether the host and refugee populations can cooperate harmoniously. We conduct a lab-in-the-field experiment in Lebanon studying intra- and inter-group behavior of Syrian refugees and Lebanese nationals in a repeated public goods game without and with punishment. We randomly assign participants to Lebanese-only, Syrian-only, or mixed sessions. We find that randomly formed pairs in homogeneous sessions, on average, contribute and punish significantly more than those in mixed sessions, suggesting in-group cooperation is stronger. These patterns are driven by Lebanese participants. Further analysis indicates that behavior in mixed groups is more strongly conditioned on expectations about the partner’s cooperation than in homogeneous groups.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-191
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior & Organization
Early online date12 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2021


  • Refugees, Public goods game, Cooperation, Punishment