Early Origins of Social Cohesion in Increasingly Diverse Societies

ERC Consolidator Grant (2021-2026)

In-group favouritism and out-group discrimination are ubiquitous phenomena, threatening social cohesion in diverse societies. Notwithstanding growing urgency, we lack a systematic understanding of the causes and consequences of in-group out-group biases, or to put it more broadly, of social cohesion.
KIDSNGROUPS will open frontiers to advance our knowledge on social cohesion by focusing on the early life cycle, and thus the most formative years in people’s life. Its main objective is to break ground regarding the causal origins of in-group out-group preferences. For this purpose, it will study the role of the family (vertical socialization) and other socialization processes like imitation and learning (horizontal socialization) in shaping children’s in-group out-group preferences. Moreover, it will shed novel light on the economic relevance of social cohesion. To the extent that in-group favouritism and out-group discrimination prevent children from helping each other, they may hamper children’s welfare, and thus the future of diverse societies.
Striving to provide a comprehensive picture of the origins and the impact of social cohesion, KIDSNGROUPS will draw upon methods from the frontier of various research fields. In particular, it will propose an innovative combination of i) experimental methods to study in- and out-group phenomena, ii) administrative records to get access to large-scale, non-selected samples and hands on high quality measures of children’s human capital, and iii) state-of-the-art econometric techniques to infer causality. In so doing, KIDSNGROUPS will open up new avenues for any science interested in people’s behaviour.
In summary, KIDSNGROUPS will not only advance in a creative and significant manner an active research area, it will also impact public policy by generating essential insights on one of the most urgent topics on Europe’s political agenda.