We investigate experimentally the effect of a negative endowment shock in a trust game to assess whether different causes of inequality have different effects on trust and trustworthiness. In our trust game there may be inequality in favor of the second mover and this may (or may not) be the result of a negative random shock (i.e., the outcome of a die roll) that decreases the endowment of the first-mover. Our findings suggest that inequality leads to differences in behavior. First-movers send more of their endowment and second-movers return more when there is inequality. However, we do not find support for the hypothesis that the cause of the inequality matters. Behavior after the occurrence of a random shock is not significantly different from the behavior when the inequality exists from the outset. Our results highlight that we have to be cautious when interpreting the effects on trust and trustworthiness of negative random shocks that occur in the field (e.g., natural disasters). Our results suggest that these effects are largely driven by the inequality caused by the shock and not by any of the additional characteristics of the shock like saliency or uncertainty.
Bejarano, H., Gillet, J., & Rodriguez-Lara, I. (2020). Trust and trustworthiness after negative random shocks. ESI Working Paper 20-25. https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/esi_working_papers/320/