Markets and the Making of Modern `Sensibilities'? Experimental Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa


We further seek to provide causal evidence on how markets shape values using an NGO program that promotes market access in rural villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Implemented by a local NGO, this `City Access Program’ (CAP) provides regular weekly transportation by motorbike taxi to the largest market in the city of Kananga to individuals living in rural villages surrounding the city. We exploit exogenous variation in the participants’ access to markets, the total numbers of customers, and the number of repeated customers induced by the randomization to different market types. First, we empirically assess whether markets are value laden. Second, we test three classic hypotheses about markets in social sciences: (1) markets make humans more trusting, more trustworthy, and more likely to view social interaction as a positive-sum game (the doux-commerce thesis); (2) markets turn humans into self-interested utility maximizers who become more detached from their communities; (3) markets make humans feel poorer by raising the standards of material wealth that is perceived to be necessary for happiness (the Rousseau hypothesis).