IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Do Trust and Trustworthiness Pay Off?


  • Joel Slemrod
  • Peter Katuscak


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Slemrod & Peter Katuscak, 2002. "Do Trust and Trustworthiness Pay Off?," NBER Working Papers 9200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9200
    Note: PE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
    2. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
    3. Angrist, Joshua D. & Krueger, Alan B., 1999. "Empirical strategies in labor economics," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 23, pages 1277-1366 Elsevier.
    4. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert, 1999. "The Quality of Government," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 222-279, April.
    5. Jean Tirole, 1996. "A Theory of Collective Reputations (with applications to the persistence of corruption and to firm quality)," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(1), pages 1-22.
    6. Parikshit Ghosh & Debraj Ray, 1996. "Cooperation in Community Interaction Without Information Flows," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(3), pages 491-519.
    7. Harmon, Colm & Walker, Ian, 1995. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling for the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1278-1286, December.
    8. Edward L. Glaeser & David I. Laibson & José A. Scheinkman & Christine L. Soutter, 2000. "Measuring Trust," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 811-846.
      • Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    9. Isacsson, Gunnar, 1999. "Estimates of the return to schooling in Sweden from a large sample of twins," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 471-489, November.
    10. Card, David, 1999. "The causal effect of education on earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 30, pages 1801-1863 Elsevier.
    11. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2000. "The Determinants of Trust," NBER Working Papers 7621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Avinash Dixit, 2003. "On Modes of Economic Governance," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(2), pages 449-481, March.
    13. Altonji, Joseph G. & Blank, Rebecca M., 1999. "Race and gender in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 48, pages 3143-3259 Elsevier.
    14. repec:hrv:faseco:30747160 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Danielson, Anders & Holm, Hakan J, 2002. "Trust in the Tropics? Experimental Evidence from Tanzania," Working Papers 2002:12, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Heineck, Guido & Süssmuth, Bernd, 2013. "A different look at Lenin’s legacy: Social capital and risk taking in the Two Germanies," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 789-803.
    2. Ashraf, Nava & Bohnet, Iris & Piankov, Nikita, 2003. "Is Trust a Bad Investment?," Working Paper Series rwp03-047, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Breuer, Janice Boucher & McDermott, John, 2009. "Trustworthiness and economic performance," MPRA Paper 16777, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Rainer, Helmut & Siedler, Thomas, 2009. "Does democracy foster trust?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 251-269, June.
    5. Hong, Kessely & Bohnet, Iris, 2007. "Status and distrust: The relevance of inequality and betrayal aversion," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 197-213, April.
    6. Alessandro Bucciol & Simona Cicognani & Luca Zarri, 2017. "The Status-Enhancing Power of Sociability," Working Paper series 17-15, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
    7. Rainer, Helmut & Siedler, Thomas, 2006. "Does Democracy Foster Trust? Evidence from the German Reunification," Economics Discussion Papers 8903, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    8. Markus M. L. Crepaz & Jonathan T. Polk & Ryan S. Bakker & Shane P. Singh, 2014. "Trust Matters: The Impact of Ingroup and Outgroup Trust on Nativism and Civicness," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 95(4), pages 938-959, December.
    9. Alessandro Bucciol & Simona Cicognani & Luca Zarri, 2017. "The Social Status-Enhancing Power of Social Ties," Working Papers 04/2017, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    10. Lars Osberg & Jonathan Schwabish & Timothy Smeeding, 2004. "Income Distribution and Social Expenditures: A Crossnational Perspective," LIS Working papers 350, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    11. repec:sgm:resrep:v:2:i:22:y:2016:p:119-130 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2008. "Who are the trustworthy, we think?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(3-4), pages 456-465, December.
    13. Peter Katuscak & Joel Slemrod, 2006. "Trust and Trustworthiness in an Economy with Heterogeneous Individuals," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp305, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    14. Meriggi, Niccolo F. & Leuveld, Koen & Gardebroek, Cornelis, 2015. "Dissecting an Investment Game: Evidence From a Field Experiment in Rural Cameroon," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205568, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9200. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.