Homo Reciprocans: Survey Evidence on Prevalence, Behavior and Success

40 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2006

See all articles by Armin Falk

Armin Falk

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Thomas J. Dohmen

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); Maastricht University - Business Investment Research Center (BIRC)

David Huffman

IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Swarthmore College

Uwe Sunde

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)

Date Written: July 2006

Abstract

Experimental evidence has convincingly shown the existence of reciprocal inclinations, i.e., a tendency for people to respond in-kind to hostile or kind actions. Little is known, however, about: (i) the prevalence of reciprocity in the population, (ii) individual determinants of reciprocity, (iii) the correlation between positive and negative inclinations within person, and (iv) consequences of reciprocal inclinations for wages, subjective well-being, friendships and other economic and social outcomes. Answering these questions requires moving out of the lab and using a large and representative subject pool, which combines information about subjects' reciprocal inclinations with extensive socioeconomic background information. In this paper we measure the reciprocal inclinations of 21,000 individuals. We show that most people state reciprocal inclinations, in particular in terms of positive reciprocity. However, there is substantial heterogeneity in the degree of reciprocity, and quite surprisingly, only a weak correlation between positive and negative reciprocity for an individual. In terms of determinants, being female, and increasing age, lead to greater positive and less negatively reciprocal tendencies. Taller people are more positively reciprocal, but height has no impact on negative reciprocity. The asymmetric impact of these determinants provides further indication that positive and negative reciprocity are fundamentally different traits, rather than the outcome of a single underlying tendency. In terms of economic implications, we provide the first evidence using a large representative survey that corroborates an important hypothesis arising from laboratory experiments: Positively reciprocal workers are in fact paid more, and exert greater effort, on the job. Moreover, positively reciprocal people are more likely to be employed, report having more close friends, and have a higher overall level of life satisfaction. In this sense, Homo Reciprocans - in the positive domain - is in fact more successful than his or her non-reciprocal fellows.

Keywords: reciprocity, trust, SOEP, wage regression, unemployment, happiness

JEL Classification: D63, J3, J6

Suggested Citation

Falk, Armin and Dohmen, Thomas and Huffman, David and Sunde, Uwe, Homo Reciprocans: Survey Evidence on Prevalence, Behavior and Success (July 2006). IZA Discussion Paper No. 2205. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=920647

Armin Falk (Contact Author)

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Schaumburg-Lippe-Straße 5-9
Bonn, 53113
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.briq-institute.org/

Thomas Dohmen

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) ( email )

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

Maastricht University - Business Investment Research Center (BIRC) ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200 MD
Netherlands
+31-43-388 3832 (Phone)
+31-43-388 4856 (Fax)

David Huffman

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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

Swarthmore College

500 College Ave
Swarthmore, PA 19081
United States

Uwe Sunde

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, DE Bavaria 80539
Germany

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