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Faculty Research Working Paper Series
Iris Bohnet
Roy E. Larsen Professor of Public Policy
phone: (617)495-5605
Is Trust a Bad Investment?
Ashraf, Nava, Iris Bohnet, and Nikita Piankov. "Is Trust a Bad Investment?" KSG Faculty Research Working Papers Series RWP03-047, November 2003.
This paper examines whether trust is an investment decision under uncertainty, based on the expectation of trustworthiness, and whether trustworthiness is reciprocity, conditional on one's counterpart's behavior. In experiments run in Russia, South Africa and the United States, we find that only about one third of the subjects who trust expect to make money and that reciprocity matters in the United States but hardly in Russia and South Africa. On average, trust and trustworthiness behavior is significantly related to warm-glow kindness-with the exception of women's trust, which is almost exclusively accounted for by expectations of return. One-shot trust appears to "pay" for some but not for others. Key Words: Trust, kindness, reciprocity, gender, cross-cultural experiments. (JEL C72, C91)



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