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Social trust: Global pattern or nordic exceptionalism?


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  • Delhey, Jan
  • Newton, Kenneth


Cross-national comparative analysis of generalised social trust in 60 countries shows that it is associated with, and is an integral part of, a tight syndrome of cultural, social, economic, and political variables. High trust countries are characterized by ethnic homogeneity, Protestant religious traditions, good government, wealth (GDP per capita), and income equality. This particular combination is most marked in the high trust Nordic countries but when this group of outliners is removed from the analysis, the same general pattern is found in the remaining 55 countries, albeit in a weaker form. There are indications that rural societies tend to have comparatively low levels of generalized trust but no evidence that large-scale urban society tends to undermine trust. The cause and effect relations between trust and its correlates are impossible to specify but the results suggest that the ethnic homogeneity and Protestant traditions have a direct impact on trust, and an indirect one through their consequences for good government, wealth and income equality. The importance of ethnic homogeneity for generalised trust also suggests that the difference between particularised and generalised trust may be one of degree rather than kind. -- Generalisiertes Vertrauen in die Mitmenschen ist eng verknüpft mit einem Syndrom kultureller, sozialer, wirtschaftlicher und politischer Kontextmerkmale. Dies zeigt eine komparative Makro-Analyse mit 60 Ländern, basierend auf dem World Value Survey und Makro- Indikatoren. Insbesondere ethnische Homogenität, protestantische religiöse Tradition, hohe Regierungsqualität, Wohlstand und Einkommensgleichheit begünstigen ein hohes generalisiertes Vertrauen der Bevölkerung. Diese Merkmale finden sich in Kombination – und besonders ausgeprägt – in den nordischen Ländern, die auch die höchsten Vertrauenswerte aufweisen. Doch selbst wenn man die nordischen Länder als Ausreißer in der Analyse nicht berücksichtigt, sind für die verbleibenden 55 Länder dieselben Determinanten von Vertrauen wirksam, wenn auch in abgeschwächter Form. Zwar können die genauen Ursache-Wirkungszusammenhänge zwischen Vertrauen und den genannten Ländermerkmalen nicht spezifiziert werden. Jedoch legen die Ergebnisse nahe, dass ethnische Homogenität und Protestantismus zum einen auf direktem Wege ein Klima des Vertrauens erzeugen, zum anderen auf indirektem Wege, indem sie die Regierungsqualität, die wirtschaftliche Entwicklung und Einkommensverteilung beeinflussen. Die Bedeutung ethnischer Homogenität für Vertrauen wirft auch die Frage auf, ob zwischen partikularisiertem und generalisiertem Vertrauen wirklich – wie oft angenommen – ein fundamentaler Unterschied besteht oder ob dieser nicht eher gradueller Natur ist.

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Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Inequality and Social Integration with number SP I 2004-202.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbisi:spi2004202

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