BREAD Working Paper No. 564, June 2019

Leader Identity and Coordination

Sonia Bhalotra, Irma Clots-Figueras, Lakshmi Iyer, Joseph Vecci


This paper examines policy effectiveness as a function of leader identity. We experimentally vary leader religious identity in a coordination game implemented in India, and focus upon citizen reactions to leader identity, controlling for leader actions. We find that minority leaders improve coordination, while majority leaders do not. Alternative treatment arms reveal that affirmative action for minorities reverses this result, while intergroup contact improves coordination irrespective of leader identity. Both policies are less effective in minority-led groups in towns with a conflict history. Our results demonstrate that leader and policy effectiveness depend upon citizen reactions, conditioned by group identity and past conflict.

Keywords: Leader identity, religion, coordination failure, affirmative action, intergroup contact, conflict, India

JEL codes: P16, D70, D91, J78