How Do We Choose Our Identity? A Revealed Preference Approach Using Food Consumption
Are identities fungible? How do people come to identify with specific groups? This paper proposes a revealed preference approach, using food consumption to uncover ethnic and religious identity choices in India. We first show that consumption of identity goods (e.g. beef and pork) responds to forces suggested by social-identity research: group status and group salience, with the latter proxied by inter-group conflict. Moreover, identity choices respond to the cost of following the group’s prescribed behaviors. We propose and estimate a modified demand system to quantify the identity changes that followed India’s 1991 economic reforms. While social-identity research has focused on status and salience, economic costs appear to play a dominant role.

Written with Eve Colson-Sihra and Moses Shayo (both The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Date: 16 October 2019, 12:30 (Wednesday, 1st week, Michaelmas 2019)
Venue: Manor Road Building, Manor Road OX1 3UQ
Venue Details: Lecture Theatre
Speaker: David Atkin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Organising department: Department of Economics
Organisers: Emma Riley (Department of Economics, University of Oxford), Margaryta Klymak (Department of International Development), Rossa O'Keeffe-O'Donovan (Nuffield College)
Organiser contact email address:
Part of: CSAE Lunchtime Seminars
Booking required?: Not required
Audience: Public
Editors: Suzanne George, Anna Siwek