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Integrating information from existing research, qualitative ethnographic interviews, and participant observation, we designed a field experiment that introduces idiosyncratic environmental risk and a voluntary sharing decision into a standard public goods game. Conducted with subsistence resource users in rural villages in remote Kamchatka Russia, we find evidence consistent with a model of indirect reciprocity and local social norms of helping the needy. When experiments allow participants to develop reputations, as is the case in most small‐scale societies, we find that sharing is increasingly directed toward individuals experiencing hardship, good reputations increase aid, and risk‐pooling becomes more effective. Our results highlight the importance of investigating social and ecological factors, beyond strategic risk, that affect the balance between independence and interdependence when developing and testing theories of cooperation.


Working Paper 15-20



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