Moral Wiggling and Ethnic Discrimination

Last registered on August 25, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Moral Wiggling and Ethnic Discrimination
Initial registration date
May 28, 2021

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
May 28, 2021, 12:48 PM EDT

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

Last updated
August 25, 2022, 10:58 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator

Tilburg University, Economics

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Tilburg University
PI Affiliation
Tilburg University
PI Affiliation
Norwegian School of Economics
PI Affiliation
Norwegian School of Economics

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
How resources should be redistributed among members in society is a topic of debate. A clear normative benchmark is available only in a few situations, but more often, different allocations can be justified by appealing to different moral arguments. Such a plurality of moral arguments results in moral wiggle room because it provides excuses to people to act, consciously or unconsciously, in a way that favors themselves or that is socially undesirable. We study whether the availability of moral wiggle room affects discriminatory behavior against immigrants.
We run experiments on representative samples of individuals from the native majority in Germany and France. The individuals decide how to redistribute money between two other people living in their country; one of these is from the majority as well and the other person has an ethnic minority background. They make their decision either in a context in which splitting money equally is obviously the fairest choice, or in a context in which deviating from an equal split is possible because the normative benchmark is not unique. We hypothesize that individuals with a taste for ethnic discrimination find it easier to allocate a lower amount of money to the minority worker than to the majority worker in a context in which the normative benchmark is not unique.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Cappelen, Alexander W. et al. 2022. "Moral Wiggling and Ethnic Discrimination." AEA RCT Registry. August 25.
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Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The key outcome is the allocation decision made by the spectator.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We run controlled experiments in which decision-makers with either a native German or French background (which we refer to as `spectators') are faced with a situation in which two people, called worker A and worker B in the experiment, have earned an amount of 20 Euro in total for performing a task. One worker has the same majority background as the spectator and the other has a minority background. More specifically, German (French) spectators are matched with minority background workers with Turkish (Maghrebi) origins. Turks and Maghrebi represents the largest non-Western immigrant groups in Germany and France, respectively.

The spectators are explained that worker A and worker B have been recruited via an online platform and that they both successfully completed a task. Spectators are also informed about the workers' gender and age range. Furthermore, they are told how the workers are called by their first name, which is a signal of their ethnic background. In fact, we do not reveal the actual first names of the workers but use a nick-name that provides a correct signal of the workers' ethnic background and, at the same time, preserves workers' anonymity. For each of the four different groups of workers (i.e. native Germans and French, Turkish and Maghrebi immigrants), and for each gender, we put together a list of 10 first names that are common among people belonging to the respective groups. Every worker is then randomly assigned a name from the list of nick-names that is relevant for his/her group, and this name is communicated to the spectator.

Spectators are informed that workers' earnings for performing the task were determined according to a randomly drawn payment scheme out of the following three schemes:

- Worker A and worker B earn 10 Euro each. (condition Baseline)
-Worker A earns 15 Euro and worker B earns 5 Euro. (condition Majority Lucky)
-Worker A earns 5 Euro and worker B earns 15 Euro. (condition Minority Lucky)

The task of the spectators is to decide how much money, if any, they choose to redistribute between worker A and worker B. Spectators are paid a fixed fee for their decision and are informed that at the end of the study, the redistribution decision of 10% randomly selected spectators will be implemented for real. Workers receive a fixed fee to complete the task and a variable fee, which depends on the condition they are allocated to and on the redistribution decision of the matched spectator. The complete set of instructions given to the workers and spectators are provided in a separate document. At the end of the experiment, spectators answer a survey with questions on a number of socio-demographic characteristics and traits, such as political orientation, views on redistribution and attitudes to ethnic diversity in society. The instructions document includes the survey questions.

The spectators and the workers in the experiment are recruited by survey company Ipsos. We aim at recruiting a sample of 6000 spectators, 3000 with a native German and 3000 with a native French background. Each spectator is randomly allocated to only one of the three experimental conditions. We recruit 600 workers in total, 100 for each country/condition combination. Each worker completes two surveys, the payment for each survey is determined by the decision of a randomly matched spectator (i.e. two spectators are matched with each worker). Workers are selected on the basis of their country of birth and their parents' country of birth. For example, minority workers in the German experiment are either born in Turkey or have parents who are both born there.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Spectators are randomized into the three conditions by the computer.
Randomization Unit
Individuals are randomization unit.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
There are no clusters.
Sample size: planned number of observations
The planned number of observations is 6000, equal to the number of spectators we recruit.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
We plan to have 2000 spectators for each condition: Baseline, Majority Lucky, Minority Lucky.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
TiSEM Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB FUL 2020-012
IRB Name
NHH Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
NHH-IRB 13/20
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials