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September 2018

The origins of social boundaries

Varun Gauri's picture

This is the first in an occasional series of blogs on social boundaries and identity. I’m interested in the topic for obvious reasons. Social boundaries and identities, at least in some forms (and that is the rub!) have been argued to affect generalized trust and/or prejudice, governance and cooperation, and development outcomes. They may also be relevant to certain recent political developments. Here at the World Bank, the Mind, Behavior, and Development Unit (eMBeD) is involved in projects that aim to support social cohesion.

The power of a label: Merit scholarships vs needs-based scholarships?

David Evans's picture



Labels matter. Girls who are reminded of stereotypes about how girls perform in math do worse on math exams (in some circumstances). Publicly revealing the caste of students in India led to worse performance of students from castes that were traditionally lower in the caste hierarchy. In the U.S., posting a banner with vegetables in the form of cartoon characters increased schoolchildren’s consumption of vegetables by 90 percent. These are all forms of labeling. New research suggests that labeling matters in school scholarships – merit-based versus needs-based – as well.

Religion and widowhood in Nigeria

Dominique van de Walle's picture

African widows often face considerable disadvantage relative to married women in their first union. How much so depends on the society they live in, with pronounced hardship in some contexts, yet benefits to widows in others. In the absence of effective policies, their situation is likely to depend heavily on the social-cultural norms applying to women following widowhood. In a recent paper, Annamaria Milazzo and I investigate this issue by comparing the well-being (as measured by BMI and rates of underweight) of young (15-49) Nigerian widows and non-widows across Christian and Muslim groups using the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) of 2008 and 2013.