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Participation Improves Collective Decisions (When It Involves Deliberation): Experimental Evidence From Kenya

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 December 2021

Tara Grillos*
Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA
Corresponding author. Email:


Citizen participation in decision making has been widely lauded as a method for improving societal outcomes. Deliberative discussion, in particular, is believed to be more transformative than a mere aggregation of individual preferences, leading to more socially optimal decision making and behavior. I report the results from a laboratory experiment with 570 subjects in Nairobi, directly testing the effect of participation in deliberative group decision making on collective outcomes. Participants engage in a group task to earn compensation toward a shared group fund. Randomly assigned treatments vary according to whether decision making over the task to be completed involves: (1) external assignment; (2) non-deliberative majority voting; or (3) consensus through deliberative discussion. I find that deliberation improves collective decision making. Deliberation is also associated with changes in preferences, greater agreement with decision outcomes, and greater perceived fairness. Evidence for behavior change is weaker, but there is some support for further research into the relationship between preference change and behavior change.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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