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Honesty on the Streets: A Natural Field Experiment on Newspaper Purchasing

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  • Gerald J. Pruckner
  • Rupert Sausgruber

Abstract

A publisher uses an honor system for selling a newspaper in the street. The customers are supposed to pay, but they can also pay less than the price or not pay at all. We conduct an experiment to study honesty in this market. The results show that appealing to honesty increases payments, whereas reminding the customers of the legal norm has no effect. Furthermore, appealing to honesty does not affect the behavior of the dishonest. These findings suggest that some people have internalized an honesty norm, whereas others have not, and that the willingness to pay to obey the norm differs among individuals. In a follow-up survey study we find that honesty is associated with family characteristics, self-esteem, social connectedness, trust in the legal system, and compliance with tax regulations.

Suggested Citation

  • Gerald J. Pruckner & Rupert Sausgruber, 2009. "Honesty on the Streets: A Natural Field Experiment on Newspaper Purchasing," NRN working papers 2009-24, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  • Handle: RePEc:jku:nrnwps:2009_24
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    Cited by:

    1. James Alm & Erich Kirchler & Stephan Muehlbacher & Katharina Gangl & Eva Hofmann & Christoph Kogler & Maria Pollai, 2012. "Rethinking the Research Paradigms for Analysing Tax Compliance Behaviour," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 13(2), pages 33-40, July.
    2. Houser, Daniel & List, John A. & Piovesan, Marco & Samek, Anya & Winter, Joachim, 2016. "Dishonesty: From parents to children," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 242-254.
    3. Ute Filipiak, 2013. "Trusting Financial Institutions: Out of Reach, out of Trust?," Schumpeter Discussion Papers sdp13002, Universitätsbibliothek Wuppertal, University Library.
    4. Traxler, Christian & Winter, Joachim, 2012. "Survey evidence on conditional norm enforcement," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 390-398.
    5. Fosgaard, Toke Reinholt & Hansen, Lars Gaarn & Piovesan, Marco, 2013. "Separating Will from Grace: An experiment on conformity and awareness in cheating," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 279-284.
    6. Abeler, Johannes & Becker, Anke & Falk, Armin, 2012. "Truth-Telling: A Representative Assessment," IZA Discussion Papers 6919, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. James Alm & Erich Kirchler & Stephan Muehlbacher, 2012. "Combining Psychology and Economics in the Analysis of Compliance: From Enforcement to Cooperation," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 133-152, September.
    8. Houser, Daniel & Vetter, Stefan & Winter, Joachim, 2012. "Fairness and cheating," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1645-1655.
    9. Bradley J. Ruffle & Yossef Tobol, 2017. "Clever enough to tell the truth," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 20(1), pages 130-155, March.
    10. Gerlinde Fellner & Rupert Sausgruber & Christian Traxler, 2009. "Testing Enforcement Strategies in the Field: Legal Threat, Moral Appeal and Social Information," NRN working papers 2009-23, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    11. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:1-10 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Bucciol, Alessandro & Piovesan, Marco, 2011. "Luck or cheating? A field experiment on honesty with children," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 73-78, February.
    13. Ruffle, Bradley & Tobol, Yossi, 2014. "Screening for Honesty," IZA Discussion Papers 8286, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Barr, Abigail & Michailidou, Georgia, 2017. "Complicity without connection or communication," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 1-10.
    15. Riener, Gerhard & Traxler, Christian, 2012. "Norms, moods, and free lunch: Longitudinal evidence on payments from a Pay-What-You-Want restaurant," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 476-483.
    16. Jingnan (Cecilia) Chen & Daniel Houser, 2013. "Promises and Lies: An Experiment on Detecting Deception," Working Papers 1038, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Feb 2013.
    17. Veronika A. Andorfer & Ulf Liebe, 2014. "Do Information, Price, or Morals Influence Ethical Consumption? A Natural Field Experiment and Customer Survey on the Purchase of Fair Trade Coffee," University of Bern Social Sciences Working Papers 6, University of Bern, Department of Social Sciences.
    18. Ruffle, Bradley & Tobol, Yossi, 2013. "Honest on Mondays: Honesty and the Temporal Distance between Decisions and Payoffs," IZA Discussion Papers 7312, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. Conrads, Julian & Irlenbusch, Bernd & Rilke, Rainer Michael & Walkowitz, Gari, 2013. "Lying and team incentives," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 1-7.
    20. Agnes Baeker & Mario Mechtel, 2015. "Peer Settings Induce Cheating on Task Performance," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201506, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    honesty; internalized social norm; natural field experiment; survey;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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