The 16 Most (and Least) Honest Cities in the World

What's up with the Iberian Peninsula?

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Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters

How do you measure integrity? Personality test? Trick questions? Good old-fashioned Jack Byrnes from Meet the Parents-style lie detector shakedown?

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How about just tallying the number of lost wallets returned in a given timeframe? That’s how Reader’s Digest says it conducted a “global, social experiment” to identify the “most (and least) honest cities in the world.”

RD’s methodology:

In each, we put a name with a cellphone number, a family photo, coupons, and business cards, plus the equivalent of $50. We “dropped” 12 wallets in each of the 16 cities we selected, leaving them in parks, near shopping malls, and on sidewalks. Then we watched to see what would happen.

And here they are, ranked from most to least honest according to the number of pilfered man-purses (why RD focused on only one gender’s money-toting modus operandi is anyone’s guess).

1. Helsinki, Finland (11 of 12 wallets returned)

2. Mumbai, India (9 of 12 wallets returned)

3. Budapest, Hungary and New York City, U.S. (8 of 12 wallets returned)

4. Moscow, Russia and Amsterdam, the Netherlands (7 of 12 wallets returned)

5. Berlin, Germany and Ljubljana, Slovenia (6 of 12 wallets returned)

6. London, England and Warsaw, Poland (5 of 12 wallets returned)

7. Bucharest, Romania, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Zurich, Switzerland (4 of 12 wallets returned)

8. Prague, Czech Republic (3 of 12 wallets returned)

9. Madrid, Spain (2 of 12 wallets returned)

10. Lisbon, Portugal (1 of 12 wallets returned)

The takeaways: RD says roughly half of all wallets dropped were returned, and that age, gender or wealth don’t seem to have mattered in determining good Samaritanism.

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