Ethnic Cues and Redistributive Preferences in Post-Soviet Georgia

Article appearing in Studies in Comparative International Development, 52 (3)

How do citizens in weak democracies evaluate claims on government assistance made by other ethnic groups? This paper analyzes data from an original survey experiment in the Republic of Georgia to determine the role of ethnic cues in the formation of redistributive preferences. In the experiment, ethnic Georgian subjects are randomly assigned a mock news article with variation on implied ethnic (Georgian, Azeri, or Armenian) identity and type of redistributive demand, and asked to evaluate the demand. The results show modest but consistent evidence of ethnic bias conditional on both types of variation, along with ethnic stereotypes, even while subjects are highly pro-redistribution in general. This study highlights how subtle biases can shape redistributive policy preferences in ways inimical to democracy in multiethnic societies.