How Honest is Your Neighbor?

If you lose your wallet, how likely is it a stranger will return it? Well, it turns out that may depend on where you live, according to a global study by U management professor David Tannenbaum. For the study published in the journal Science, he and his co-authors dropped more than 17,000 wallets in 335 cities across 40 countries. Each wallet contained three business cards and a key. The wallets also contained either no cash, the equivalent of about $13, or up to about $94. People were more likely to return the wallets if there was cash in them, and overall 51 percent of wallets with cash were returned. But that varied widely by location. The most honest nations? At the top end of the scale, more than 70 percent of the wallets were returned in Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries. Around half of the wallets in the United States were returned. And only about 15 percent of wallet finders came clean in China and Morocco.

For more on this research, click here.

Web Exclusive

Country list and return rate


Country list and return rate


Comments are moderated, so there may be a slight delay. Those that are off-topic or deemed inappropriate may not be posted. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

  1. Did you also survey the individuals that returned the wallets? Were there trends on their responses to why they returned the wallets? Or trends on their heritage if they lived in the United States?
    This study makes me reflect on cultural diversity in the United States and how that is perhaps impacting the rate of our own honesty.

  2. About 20 years ago while traveling solo, I lost my wallet in Sydney, Australia. I had no money or other id. I wasn’t sure how I would get home. A local found it and called my hotel (I had placed my hotel key card inside.) I walked to his office to pick it up. So grateful for honest people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *