'Friendships and Favoritism on the Schoolground - A Framed Field Experiment'
This study presents evidence from a field experiment on the prevalence of favoritism at school among younger children (6-8 years old) and older children (10-12 years old). Children compete in teams in a tournament setting with two rounds. The task is a simple individual effort task - bring as many balls as possible from one basket to the other. The performance of the team is determined by the sum of all individual performances. After a first round where all team members participate, children are asked to report which group member they would prefer to do the task in the second round, for the benefit of the team. The chosen child would not only perform the task again, but would also receive an additional gift. We find that friends are more likely to be chosen than others, conditional on their performance in the first round. Performance is an important criterion for the older children, but not for the younger ones. While this suggests that the children favor their friends, we also find an offsetting effect: children who are favored increase their subsequent performance. These positive feedback effects might be the very reason why favors subsist as children grow older and performance concerns increase. These results also show the importance of observing performance ex-post (rather than ex ante) in order to draw conclusions about efficiency.