What Affects the Level of Honesty in an Economy?

29 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2012

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 1, 1985


This paper focuses on questions such as what determines the societal level of honesty (that is, the proportion of honest individuals in the economy), and why some economies may be more honest, or less honest, than others. A central feature of our model is that an individual’s (Bayesian) behavior (to be honest or dishonest) is influenced by his own past experiences which, in turn, are determined by the behavior of others. Therefore, honesty encourages honesty, whereas dishonesty encourages dishonesty. Our formal analysis is conducted within an overlapping generation’s framework, in which individuals live for a finite amount of time, but the society is a going concern.

We show that there can be dishonesty in an economy even if the youngest generation is entirely honest, and that there can be honesty in an economy even if the youngest generation is entirely dishonest. We predict the effects (on the level of honesty) of parameters representing the characteristics of individuals and the economy. For instance, if the youngest generation believes that the level of honesty in the economy is higher then, indeed, the actual level of honesty is higher. In addition, we have been able to delineate intuitive conditions under which an economy is less honest (or more honest) if people live longer, and under which older persons are less honest (or more honest) than the younger ones.

Suggested Citation

Sah, Raaj Kumar, What Affects the Level of Honesty in an Economy? (March 1, 1985). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2086952 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2086952

Raaj Kumar Sah (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States
+1 773 288 1117 (Phone)

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