Dishonesty: From Parents to Children

47 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2014 Last revised: 19 Sep 2015

Daniel Houser

George Mason University - Department of Economics

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Marco Piovesan

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Anya Savikhin Samek

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR); The University of Chicago

Joachim K. Winter

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA); Deutsche Bundesbank - Research Department

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 15, 2015

Abstract

Acts of dishonesty permeate life. Understanding their origins, and what mechanisms help to attenuate such acts is an underexplored area of research. This study takes an economics approach to explore the propensity of individuals to act dishonestly across different contexts. We conduct an experiment that includes both parents and their young children as subjects, exploring the roles of moral cost and scrutiny on dishonest behavior. We find that the highest level of dishonesty occurs in settings where the parent acts alone and the dishonest act benefits the child. In this spirit, there is also an interesting, quite different, effect of children on parents’ behavior: parents act more honestly under the scrutiny of daughters than under the scrutiny of sons. This finding sheds new light on the origins of the widely documented gender differences in cheating behavior observed among adults, where a typical result is that females are more honest than males.

Keywords: cheating, dishonesty, ethical judgment, social utility, field experiment

JEL Classification: C91, D63

Suggested Citation

Houser, Daniel and List, John A. and Piovesan, Marco and Samek, Anya Savikhin and Winter, Joachim K., Dishonesty: From Parents to Children (September 15, 2015). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 15-15; CESR-Schaeffer Working Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2543617 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2543617

Daniel Houser

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Marco Piovesan

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.ku.dk/piovesan/

Anya Savikhin Samek (Contact Author)

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
United States

The University of Chicago ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Joachim K. Winter

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, Bavaria 80539
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) ( email )

Amalienstrasse 33
Munich, 80799
Germany

Deutsche Bundesbank - Research Department ( email )

PO Box 10 06 02
D60006 Frankfurt
Germany

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