A group of people who operate the WalletTest.com website decided to conduct a test of people's honesty by staging wallet drops at a shopping mall in Belleville, IL. They dropped 100 wallets at different locations, covering each location with a camera. Each wallet contained $2.10 in real money, a fake $50.00 gift certificate, some miscellaneous items and a clearly written ID card identifying the lost wallet's rightful owner. They were curious as to how honest people would be and wanted to see how different groups would compare to each other. They were inspired. in part, by a much more limited similar test run by ABC's John Stossel years ago.
YouTube video further documentating the experience accesible via the Home Page of Wallettest.com.
And here were some of their findings:
(1). 74% of all participants were honest, returning the wallets.
(2). Females proved more honest than males.
(3). Older people tended to be more honest than middle-aged people, who in turn were significantly more honest than young people.
They also decided to test on the basis of race. Note that only two races were considered; white and black. If the race was not immediately obvious, they would look at the video after the fact and have three different adults evaluate it. Each of them was asked (to the best of their ability) to identify the race, sex and approximate age of the "wallet pickers". If two out of three agreed on a person's race - then that became the person's "official" race.
(1). Whites proved more honest than blacks.
(2). Combining race and age, old white people proved most honest, young black people least honest.
(3). Combining age and gender, no racial distinction: Old females proved most honest, young males proved least honest.
A couple of other recent noteworthy blog reactions on this test, including analysis. Unambiguously Dexterous points out that the age disparity is much greater than the racial disparity. This blog also attributes the racial disparity more to "economics". In contrast, White Reference focuses more on the racial disparity, identifying it as a reflection of a greater societal trend further highlighted by disparate racial reactions in responding to natural disasters. White Reference also questions the lack of data on Asians, and wonders about whether Hispanics were disregarded, or if they were classified as "white".
Conclusion: While the age disparity is worthy of further discussion, revealing a breakdown in the communication of positive values from one generation to the next, the racial disparity cannot be ignored, nor can it be attributed solely to economics, since blacks as a group tend to underperform regardless of where they are located. Blacks have also tended to exhibit a different global standard of morality on such issues as the O.J. trial and the Jena 6, being more willing to defend black misbehavior.