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Do prison inmates expect stigmatization? Evidence from two lab-in-the-field experiments

28.06.2022 14:00 Uhr Online Seminarreihe des AB Ökonomie

Presentation by Lubomir Cingl (Prague School of Economics) as part of the Economics Department seminar series at the IOS.

Prisoners are often stigmatized after their release which contributes to the high rates of recidivism. However, little is known if and how much their beliefs are affected already before release: if an expectation of stigma arises already during incarceration. In a lab-in-the-field experiment, we study if inmates expect to be stigmatized by people outside of prison in a standard trust game (and triple dictator game), and if it is reflected in their trustworthiness. Next, we test if a light-touch psychological intervention — self-affirmation — can mitigate the assumed impact of stigma, looking at the role of risk preferences and competitive confidence. In both games, senders are non-inmates and receivers are 297 inmates from fifteen medium to high-security Czech prisons. We manipulate if the prison identity is revealed to senders or not, and inmates interact with both types in a within-subject design. Contrary to our expectations, inmates do not feel stigmatized as they expect to receive a higher transfer in the trust game when their prison identity is revealed. It can be fully explained by higher expected altruism in the dictator game. Inmates, however, do not send back more when their identity is revealed. To disentangle reasons behind the counterintuitive overoptimistic expectation, we run a follow-up experiment with 486 different inmates where we replicate their overoptimism and identify the most likely channel to be the expected neediness.

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