When Syria was in Egypt’s land: Egyptians cooperate with Syrians, but less with each other

  • Mazen Hassan
  • Sarah Mansour
  • Stefan VoigtEmail author
  • May Gadallah


With the number of people fleeing Syria since 2011 exceeding 5 million, and unclear prospects regarding the country’s future, Syrians currently residing outside their homeland are not expected to return any time soon. The question of their integration into their respective hosting countries is, therefore, directly policy relevant. We focus on Syrians who fled to Egypt. Cultural, religious and linguistic differences between those two countries are minor, which is expected to facilitate integration. We ran three incentivized lab-in-the-field experiments pairing 114 Syrian refugees residing in Egypt with 194 Egyptian nationals to measure various behavioral dimensions such as altruism, cooperation and reciprocity, while varying the partner in each game to be either a refugee or an Egyptian. Our findings indicate that Egyptians treat Syrians more favorably than they treat each other across all games, whereas the behavior of Syrians does not depend on the identity of their interaction partner.


Altruism Reciprocity Cooperation Experiments Refugees Traumatic experience Post-traumatic stress disorder 

JEL Classification

C93 D02 D74 D91 O17 Z13 



Nora El Bialy and Andreas Nicklisch helped to design the experiments, Thais Hamasaki and Olaf Bock of the Hamburg lab with the programming of lime survey, Engi Amin and Omar El-Khawas with running the experiments, and the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera) with data collection. We thank all of them. The authors further thank the Volkswagen Foundation for supporting their research within the framework of its project line on “Experience of Violence, Trauma Relief and Commemorative Culture—Cooperative Research Projects on the Arab Region.” Elisa Fraile made important suggestions that improved the paper. Funding for the experiments was provided by the Volkswagen Stiftung (Project ID 91 479). Both Greg deAngelo and Bill Shughart, the editor of Public Choice, made extremely helpful suggestions that improved the paper. All errors remain ours.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Economics and Political ScienceCairo UniversityGizaEgypt
  2. 2.Institute of Law and EconomicsUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  3. 3.CESifoMunichGermany

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