Winner: Salma Mousa, Stanford University Title of the winning paper: "Creating Coexistence: Intergroup Contact and Soccer in Post-ISIS Iraq." Committee Members: Pia Raffler (Chair), Harvard University; Thomas Leeper, Facebook/LSE; Dominik Duell, Essex University.
Mousa studies how contact affects inter-group attitudes and behaviors in a post-conflict setting by organizing soccer leagues among displaced young men in post-ISIS Iraq where participants compete either in all Christian or mixed Christian-Muslim teams. The paper tackles a question of great importance that is very difficult to study and by doing so shows commendable ambition and skill. Mousa shows that intergroup contact can build what Granovetter calls “weak ties” with other players, but is less effective in changing attitudes vis a vis the outgroup more generally. The paper is particularly impressive in the way it combines two foundational pillars of a successful field experiment: in-depth case knowledge and close collaboration with local partners on the one hand and the mastering of the latest design and measurement tools in the field of experimental social science on the other. Many elements of this rich paper illustrate this impressive combination of detailed groundwork and command of the experimental tool-kit: among others, engagement with the local community to design—in a sensitive and successful manner—incentives for subjects to stay involved, a long list of creative behavioral outcome measures taken over a period of six months after the intervention, careful attention to mechanisms, pre-registration, and a sophisticated selection of randomised treatment and control conditions to bolster internal validity and to study spillover effects. Beyond the quality of experimental design and analysis, the paper also convinces with a transparent and well-written exposition. In sum, we deem Mousa’s paper a highly deserving recipient of this award.