NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Do Trust and Trustworthiness Pay Off?

Joel Slemrod, Peter Katuscak

NBER Working Paper No. 9200
Issued in September 2002
NBER Program(s):   PE

Are individuals who trust others better off than those who do not? Do trustworthy people prosper more than untrustworthy ones? We first pose these questions in a search model where individuals face repeated choices between trusting (initiating an investment transaction) and not trusting, and between being trustworthy (not stealing the investment) and cheating. We then derive predictions for the relationship between observed individual behavior, aggregate attitudes, and individual prosperity. Finally, we evaluate these predictions empirically using household-level data for eighteen (mostly developed) countries from the World Values Survey. We find that, on average, a trusting attitude has a positive impact on income, while trustworthiness has a negative impact on income. In addition, we find evidence of complementarity between these two attitudes and the aggregate levels of the complementary attitudes. Most strikingly, the payoff to being trustworthy depends positively on the aggregate amount of trust in a given country.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9200

Published: Slemrod, Joel and Peter Katuscak. "Do Trust and Trustworthiness Pay Off?," Journal of Human Resources, 2005, v40(3,Summer), 621-646.

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