Perceived Inequality Across Ethno-Religious Groups: Experimental Evidence from Lebanon

Last registered on June 24, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

Perceived Inequality Across Ethno-Religious Groups: Experimental Evidence from Lebanon
Initial registration date
June 03, 2024

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
June 24, 2024, 12:05 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator

Brown University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
London School of Economics and Political Science
PI Affiliation
University of Southern California
PI Affiliation
University of California, Los Angeles

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Income inequalities have risen starkly across the globe in recent decades. Yet societies worldwide are increasingly organized along ethno-religious lines rather than economic ones. This puzzle is particularly true of Lebanon, where ethno-religious voting blocs continue to uphold a failed state. To explore this, we will first conduct a representative survey of 3,300 Lebanese living in Greater Beirut to document the relationship between incorrect beliefs about out-groups and support for sectarianism — the formal and informal organization of life around religious sect. We then conduct an experiment to test the effects of correcting the misperception that out-group individuals “are better off than us” — on political preferences and participation. We randomly assign respondents to a video treatment stressing the relatively low levels of inequality between religious groups, or control. We test whether correcting beliefs can bolster social cohesion, shape policy preferences on redistribution, tax morale, and the acceptability of voting for politicians from other religions, and boost real-world measures of political and civic participation.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Assouad, Lydia et al. 2024. "Perceived Inequality Across Ethno-Religious Groups: Experimental Evidence from Lebanon." AEA RCT Registry. June 24.
Experimental Details


We will evenly split the sample into a treatment and control group, stratifying by religious group. We will show to the treatment group a video on income inequality across religious groups, conveying that income inequality between Sunni, Shia, and Christians is low, and that income inequalities are much more pronounced within each religious group than between them using data from the Gallup World Poll, World Inequality Lab, Assouad (2023) and UN-ESCWA. To reinforce the message underlying our treatment arm, the video will also include qualitative testimonies by Lebanese citizens from different religious backgrounds sharing their common economic difficulties. The survey questionnaires will be the same across treatment status. The video appears mid-way through the survey, after the baseline variables have been collected.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We will first document changes in beliefs about inequality and anti-sectarian views (first-stage) and to what extent incorrect beliefs vary based on four factors emphasized in the literature: (i) exposure to sectarian rhetoric proxied by self-reported exposure to sectarian media outlets3, (ii) income level and dependence on clientelism to meet basic needs, (iii) network diversity proxied by the quantity and quality of intergroup contact (Lebow et al. 2023; Breza et al. 2020). We will then test whether correcting misperceptions can: (1) increase social
cohesion and solidarity between low-income households belonging to different religious sects using self-reported attitudes towards outgroups including intergroup trust, comfort in living in mixed neighborhoods, willingness to interact and work with outgroup members; comfort with having a relative marrying outgroup members; (2) increase the salience of class identity and national identity and decrease the salience of religious identity; (3) increase support for redistribution and pro-poor policies (e.g., minimum wage, national poverty targeting program, income tax rates, and flat capital income rate) and tax morale; (4) decreases support for sectarian institutions and policies. Our outcomes will mostly be measured using survey data following the relevant literature (Okunogbe 2018; Blouin and Mukand 2019; Depetris-Chauvin et al. 2020; Mousa 2020; Alesina et al. 2021; Hoy 2023). However, we plan to measure (4) using survey-based measures of attitudes (e.g., attitudes toward sectarian politics and acceptability of voting for politicians from other religious groups) and direct behavioral measures, including participation to meetings to learn about alternative political candidates and concrete actions citizens can take to oppose sectarianism.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We will implement a survey with a representative sample of adult residents of Greater Beirut. We will recruit a minimum of n=3,300 participants from the three largest religious groups in the country: Christian, Sunni, and Shia, each composing roughly one third of the sample. Furthermore, the sample will be representative in terms of neighborhoods and gender. We will assign half of the respondents to watch a video on income inequality across religious group, and half to a pure control group. The randomization will be stratified by neighborhood, gender, and religion.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Done by survey company using computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Treatment: 1650
Control: 1650
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We will estimate effects using an intent-to-treat framework, regressing outcomes on treatment dummies. We have conducted power simulations for attitudes toward other religious groups, assuming effect sizes in line with Alesina et al. ‘s (2021) study of perceptions of racial gap. We need a sample size of 3,300 respondents to detect an effect size of a similar magnitude. We intend to conduct a logistics pilot with 50 respondents to ensure sufficient variation on all the survey questions and to test different formats for the messages in the video interventions (e.g., combining qualitative and quantitative information). Based on the pilot results, the research team will adjust the survey and select the intervention's most effective and easy-to-understand video format.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
London School of Economics and Political Science
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number