Homo Reciprocans: Survey Evidence on Behavioural Outcomes*


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     We thank the editor, two anonymous referees, Adrian Non, and participants of various conferences and seminars for their helpful comments. Financial support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) through SFB/TR 15 and the Research Network ‘Flexibility in Heterogeneous Labour Markets’, as well as from the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant is gratefully acknowledged.


This article complements the experimental literature that has shown the importance of reciprocity for behaviour in stylised labour markets or other decision settings. We use individual measures of reciprocal inclinations in a large, representative survey and relate reciprocity to real world labour market behaviour and life outcomes. We find that reciprocity matters and that the way in which it matters is very much in line with the experimental evidence. In particular, positive reciprocity is associated with receiving higher wages and working harder. Negatively reciprocal inclinations tend to reduce effort. Negative reciprocity increases the likelihood of being unemployed.