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The Right Amount of Trust

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  • Jeffrey Butler
  • Paola Giuliano
  • Luigi Guiso

Abstract

A vast literature has investigated the relationship between trust and aggregate economic performance. We investigate the relationship between individual trust and individual economic performance. We .nd that individual income is hump-shaped in a measure of intensity of trust beliefs available in the European Social Survey. We show that heterogeneity of trust beliefs in the population, coupled with the tendency of individuals to extrapolate beliefs about others from their own level of trustworthiness, could generate the non-monotonic relationship between trust and income. Highly trustworthy individuals think others are like them and tend to form beliefs that are too optimistic, causing them to assume too much social risk, to be cheated more often and ultimately perform less well than those who happen to have a trustworthiness level close to the mean of the population. On the other hand, the low-trustworthiness types form beliefs that are too conservative and thereby avoid being cheated, but give up prfitable opportunities too often and, consequently, underperform. Our estimates imply that the cost of either excessive or too little trust is comparable to the income lost by foregoing college. Furthermore, we find that people who trust more are cheated more often by banks as well as when purchasing goods second hand, when relying on the services of a plumber or a mechanic and when buying food. We complement the survey evidence with experimental evidence showing that own trustworthiness and expectations of others' trustworthiness in a trust game are strongly correlated and that performance in the game is hump-shaped.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2009/33.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2009/33

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Keywords: Trust; trustworthiness; economic performance; culture; false consensus;

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References

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  1. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2000. "The Role of Social Capital in Financial Development," CRSP working papers 511, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  2. Alessandra Fogli & Raquel Fernandez, 2005. "Culture: An Empirical Investigation of Beliefs, Work, and Fertility," Working Papers 05-07, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  3. Bohnet, Iris & Croson, Rachel, 2004. "Trust and trustworthiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 443-445, December.
  4. Aghion, Philippe & Algan, Yann & Cahuc, Pierre & Shleifer, Andrei, 2010. "Regulation and Distrust," Scholarly Articles 12490649, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales & Luigi Guiso, 2006. "Does Culture Affect Economic Outcomes?," NBER Working Papers 11999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Paola Giuliano, 2005. "Living Arrangements in Western Europe: Does Cultural Origin Matter?," 2005 Meeting Papers 189, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Bisin, A. & Verdier, T., 1999. "Beyond the Melting Pot: Cultural Transmission, Marriage, and the Evolution of Ethnic and Religious Traits," Papers 1999-10, Laval - Laboratoire Econometrie.
  9. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2007. "Cultural Biases in Economic Exchange?," Economics Working Papers ECO2007/42, European University Institute.
  10. Nava Ashraf & Iris Bohnet & Nikita Piankov, 2006. "Decomposing trust and trustworthiness," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 193-208, September.
  11. Cox, James C., 2004. "How to identify trust and reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 260-281, February.
  12. Huck, Steffen & Weizsacker, Georg, 2002. "Do players correctly estimate what others do? : Evidence of conservatism in beliefs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 71-85, January.
  13. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
  14. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. The Trust Bias! Whats The Right Level of Trust?
    by Miguel in Simoleon Sense on 2010-03-23 22:24:28
  2. We need public data on general trustworthiness
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2009-12-03 15:12:00
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