What Do Cross-country Surveys Tell Us About Social Capital?
University of Zurich, Deparment of Economics, Working Paper No. 352, 2020, Revised version
19 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2020 Last revised: 3 Dec 2020
Date Written: November 2020
We validate survey measures of social capital with a new behavioral data set that examines whether citizens report a lost wallet to its owner. Using data from more than 17,000 lost wallets across 40 countries, we find that survey measures of social capital — especially questions concerning generalized trust or generalized morality — are strongly and significantly correlated with country-level differences in wallet reporting rates. A second finding is that lost wallet reporting rates predict unique variation in the outputs of social capital, such as economic development and government effectiveness, not captured by existing measures.
Keywords: Social capital, trust, honesty, field experiment, surveys
JEL Classification: C93, C83, Z10, O10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation