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Does Electoral Competition Exacerbate Interethnic or Interpartisan Economic Discrimination? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Market Price Bargaining


Does political competition exacerbate economic discrimination between citizens on ethnic or partisan cleavages? Individuals often discriminate on group lines in ordinary economic activities, especially in low-income settings. Political competition, and thus mobilization of partisan and ethnic groups, waxes and wanes over the electoral cycle. This study therefore investigates discrimination over the electoral cycle in a commonplace yet consequential economic activity: market price bargaining. By conducting field experiments on taxi fare bargaining at three points in time around Ghana’s 2008 election, the research reveals that drivers accept lower prices from coethnics regardless of temporal proximity to the election. However, only at election time, drivers accept lower prices from copartisans and demand higher prices from noncopartisans. In sum, political competition affects commonplace economic transactions between citizens on the partisan cleavage. This study is the first to show evidence of interpartisan discrimination in everyday behavior and expands our knowledge of electoral cycle effects.

Corresponding author
Kristin Michelitch is Assistant Professor, Political Science Department, Vanderbilt University, Commons Center PMB 0505, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 27203 (
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