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Ethnic Networks

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Abstract: Active research on a wide range of political contexts centers on ethnicity s role in collective action. Many theories posit that information flows more easily in ethnically homogeneous areas, facilitating collective action, because social networks among coethnics are denser. Although this characterization is ubiquitous, little empirical work assesses it. Through a novel field experiment in a matched pair of villages in rural Uganda, this paper directly examines word-of-mouth information spread and its relationship to ethnic diversity and networks. As expected, information spread more widely in the homogeneous village. However, unexpectedly, the more diverse village s network is significantly denser. Using unusually detailed network data, we offer an explanation for why network density may hamper information dissemination in heterogeneous areas, showing why even slight hesitation to share information with people from other groups can have large aggregate effects.

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