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Does Factory Work Make You WEIRD? Experimental Evidence from a Garment Factory in Tanzania

Health & Psychology Tanzania

Credit: BBB World Service on Flickr

Study Context

People from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) societies are psychologically peculiar in ways that are important for economic outcomes. WEIRD populations, for example, are more patient, impersonally pro-social, and individualistic (Gorodnichenko and Roland 2017; Falk et al. 2018). However, little is known about what might lead contemporary societies to become psychologically WEIRD. This project asks whether factory work can lead to the adoption of WEIRD psychological traits, seeking to shed light on psychological shifts that may be tied to development.

Study Design

This study involves randomizing job offers at a modern formal-sector garment factory in Tanzania. By following individuals offered a job and those not offered a job, the study team can measure the causal effect of factory work on key psychological traits. The design allows the study team to isolate effects of factory employment experience from self-selection into such employment, and to study how such work shapes psychology relative to alternative employment, which is typically informal own-account work. Through surveys and lab-in-the-field experiments, the team plans to compare applicants who are randomly given a job to those who are not, looking for any markers of factory work’s effect on WEIRD psychological traits including time and risk preferences, individualism, span of control, time-thrift, analytical over holistic thinking, guilt versus shame, generalized trust, positive and negative reciprocity, and in-group favoritism.

Results and Policy Lessons

Results forthcoming.

  • Massa Institute of Social Science Research

2020 – ongoing

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