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Privacy, social image, trust, and corruption

Market participants not only concerned with their direct monetary benefit from interactions. We show how image concerns affect consumer choices and tax morale, how personal privacy can be protected, trust created and corruption reduced.

van Veldhuizen, Roel/Oosterbeek, Hessel/Sonnemans, Joep (2014): Peers at work: From the field to the lab. Discussion Paper SP II 2014-204. Berlin: WZB.

In an influential study, Mas and Moretti (2009) found that “worker effort is positively related to the productivity of workers who see him, but not workers who do not see him.” They interpret this as evidence that social pressure can reduce free riding. In this paper we report an attempt to reproduce the findings of Mas and Moretti in a lab experiment. Lab experiments have the advantage of being able to shut down alternative channels through which workers can influence the productivity of colleagues whom they observe. Although the subjects in our experiment are aware of the productivity of others and although there is sufficient scope for subjects to vary their productivity, we find no evidence of the type of peer effects reported by Mas and Moretti. This suggests that their findings are less generalizable than has been assumed.

Friedrichsen, Jana (2013): Image concerns and the provision of quality. Discussion Paper SP II 2013-211. Berlin: WZB.

In this paper, I study markets where consumers are heterogeneous with respect to both their concerns for the quality of goods and the image associated with them. Consumers with a taste for quality lend a positive image to the product of their choice and thereby increase the product's value to others. A monopolist restricts the product portfolio and charges price premia to allocate image along with quality. Heterogeneity in image concerns thereby provides a rationale for pooling consumers with differing quality preferences. Although image is correlated with a product's quality in equilibrium, an increase in the value of image may decrease quality provision. In a competitive market, premium prices are unsustainable so that image-concerned consumers buy excessive quality instead. Monopoly may therefore yield higher welfare than competition. Policy options to remedy the efficiency losses are discussed.

Benndorf, Volker/K├╝bler, Dorothea/Normann, Hans-Theo (2013): Privacy concerns, voluntary disclosure of information, and unraveling. An Experiment. Forthcoming in the European Economic Review.

We study the voluntary revelation of private, personal information in a labor-market experiment with a lemons structure where workers can reveal their productivity at a cost. While rational revelation improves a worker's payout, it imposes a negative externality on others and may trigger further unraveling. Our data suggest that subjects reveal their
productivity less frequently than predicted in equilibrium. A loaded frame emphasizing personal information about workers' health leads to even less revelation. We show that three canonical behavioral models all predict too little rather than too much revelation: level-k reasoning, quantal-response equilibrium, and to a lesser extent inequality aversion.

Roel van Veldhuizen (2013): The influence of wages on public officials’ corruptibility: a laboratory investigation. An Experiment. Journal of Economic Psychology, Vol. 39, S. 341–356.

Previous studies have proposed a link between corruption and wages in the public sector. The present paper investigates this link using a laboratory experiment. In the experiment, public officials have the opportunity to accept a bribe and can then decide between a neutral and a corrupt action. The corrupt action benefits the briber but poses a large negative externality on a charity. The results show that increasing public officials’ wages greatly reduces their corruptibility. In particular, low-wage public officials accept 91% of bribes on average, whereas high-wage public officials accept 38%. Moreover, high-wage public officials are less likely to choose the corrupt option. Additionally, the results suggest that a positive monitoring rate may be necessary for these effects to arise.

Binzel, Christine/Fehr, Dietmar (2013): Social distance and trust: Experimental evidence. In: Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 121, S. 214–217.

While strong social ties help individuals cope with missing institutions, trade is essentially limited to those who are part of the social network. We examine what makes the decision to trust a stranger different from the decision to trust a member of a given social network (a friend), by comparing the determinants of these two decisions for the same individual. We implement a binary trust game with hidden action in a lab-in-the-field experiment with residents of an informal housing area in Cairo. Our results show that trust is higher among friends than among strangers and that higher trust among friends is related to the principal's belief of trustworthiness. However, on average a principal underestimates her friend's trustworthiness leading to inefficient outcomes. Our findings suggest that even within a social network, trade may often be limited to exchanges with few information asymmetries.

Binzel, Christine/Fehr, Dietmar (2013): Giving and sorting among friends. Evidence from a Lab-in-the-Field Experiment. In: Economics Letters, Vol. 121, S. 214–217.

Among residents of an informal housing area in Cairo, we examine how dictator giving varies by the social distance between subjects – friend versus stranger – and by the anonymity of the dictator. While giving to strangers is high under anonymity, we find – consistent with Leider et al. (2009) – that (i) a decrease in social distance increases giving, (ii) giving to a stranger and to a friend is positively correlated, and (iii) more altruistic dictators increase their giving less under non-anonymity than less altruistic dictators. However, friends are not alike in their altruistic preferences, suggesting that an individual’s intrinsic preferences may not necessarily be shaped by his (or her) peers. Instead, reciprocal motives seem important, indicating that social relationships may be valued differently when individuals are financially dependent on them.