Economics
Research insight
January 4, 2021

Are Muslim immigrants really different? Experimental Evidence from Lebanon and Australia

This paper aims to identify the effect of religion on individual cooperative behaviour towards women and the poor by focusing on Muslim immigrants. In particular, it attempts to shed light on whether religion or the social environment of immigration influences the distinct behaviour exhibited by Muslim immigrants in Western destination countries. We test this by conducting a prisoner’s dilemma game with the Lebanese population in Australia (destination country) and the Lebanese population in Lebanon (native country). This unique sample allows us to remove the effects of confounds such as economic institutions of country of ancestry, ethn olinguistic groupings and culture.

In both countries, we compare Lebanese Muslims to Lebanese Christians to isolate the effect of religion. We find that in Lebanon, Muslims and Christians behave similarly, while in Australia, when compared to Christians, Muslims are more cooperative (i.e., send a higher share of their endowment) towards the poor and especially towards poor females. These results hold even after controlling for altruistic behaviour. We conclude that distinct behaviours displayed by Muslims are not driven by religion but rather migration status. Differing levels of social capital between these two religious groups in Australia seem to explain these findings.

This content was originally published in Novafrica.org.

NOVAFRICA Knowledge Center

NOVAFRICA is a knowledge center created by the Nova School of Business and Economics of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in 2011. Its mission is to produce expertise with an impact on business and economic development in Africa. A particular focus is on Portuguese-speaking Africa, i.e., Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Sao Tome and Principe.

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