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The Right Amount of Trust

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Author Info

  • Butler, Jeffrey V.

    ()
    (Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance)

  • Giuliano, Paola

    ()
    (University of California, Los Angeles)

  • Guiso, Luigi

    ()
    (Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance)

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 find 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 profitable 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 Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4416.

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Length: 65 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4416

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

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References

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  1. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2007. "Cultural Biases in Economic Exchange?," Economics Working Papers ECO2007/42, European University Institute.
  2. Edward L. Glaeser & David I. Laibson & José A. Scheinkman & Christine L. Soutter, 2000. "Measuring Trust," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 811-846, August.
    • Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  4. Paola Giuliano, 2007. "Living Arrangements in Western Europe: Does Cultural Origin Matter?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(5), pages 927-952, 09.
  5. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
  6. Philippe Aghion & Yann Algan & Pierre Cahuc & Andrei Shleifer, 2010. "Regulation and Distrust," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1015-1049, August.
  7. 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.
  8. Raquel Fernandez & Alessandra Fogli, 2005. "Culture: An Empirical Investigation of Beliefs, Work, and Fertility," NBER Working Papers 11268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Guiso, Luigi & Sapienza, Paola & Zingales, Luigi, 2006. "Does Culture Affect Economic Outcomes?," CEPR Discussion Papers 5505, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2004. "The Role of Social Capital in Financial Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 526-556, June.
  11. Nava Ashraf & Iris Bohnet & Nikita Piankov, 2006. "Decomposing trust and trustworthiness," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 193-208, September.
  12. Bohnet, Iris & Croson, Rachel, 2004. "Trust and trustworthiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 443-445, December.
  13. Cox, James C., 2004. "How to identify trust and reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 260-281, February.
  14. 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.
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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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