This project seeks to provide causal evidence to bear on three classic social science theories concerning how markets shape values. We study the randomized rollout of a program promoting market access in rural villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Implemented by a local NGO called Congo Helping Hands (CHH), this `City Access Program' (CAP) provides regular weekly transportation by motorbike taxi to the largest market in the city of Kananga to individuals living in rural villages surrounding the city. We leverage the random assignment of this program as a source of exogenous variation in access to markets.
In the first part of the analysis, we empirically assess whether markets are value laden. The assumption that markets are value neutral is crucial to welfare analysis in economics. If markets have independent impacts on individuals' values and preferences, then standard approaches in economics would need to be rethought.
In the second part of the analysis, we test three classic hypotheses about markets in social sciences: (1) markets make humans more trusting, more trustworthy and more likely to view social interaction as a positive-sum game (the doux-commerce thesis); (2) markets make humans into homo economicus, self-interested utility maximizers who become more detached from their communities; (3) markets make humans feel poorer by raising the standards of material wealth that is perceived to be necessary for happiness (the Rousseau hypothesis).