We evaluate the impact of an educational program that aims to build inter-ethnic cohesion in schools by developing perspective-taking ability in children. The program takes place in southeastern Turkey, a high-stakes context in which there has been a massive influx of refugees. We measure outcomes that are fundamental to economic interactions and social cohesion, including peer violence, social exclusion, and prosocial behavior. Using randomized variation in program implementation, we find that the program significantly lowers peer violence and victimization on school grounds. It also reduces social exclusion and ethnic segregation in the classroom, measured by inter-ethnic friendship ties. We find that the program is highly effective in enhancing prosocial behavior: Treated students exhibit significantly higher trust, reciprocity, and altruism toward each other. Our results suggest that well-targeted educational strategies can go a long way in building social capital, even in sociopolitically difficult circumstances.
February 10, 2020