What Do Lost Wallets Tell Us About Survey Measures of Social Capital?
20 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2020
Date Written: 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.
JEL Classification: C930, C830, Z100, O100
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