How do trust and property security influence household contributions to public goods?
Trust and property rights are generally considered to influence farmers' behavior regarding resource use and environmental management. Previous studies show that higher trust levels may enhance contributions to public goods. This paper investigates how trust and (land) property rights security influence the provision of one concrete public good: land protection through the Sloping Land Conservation Program in China. The analysis is based on household survey data from Ningxia Autonomous Region in China. From our questionnaire two trust factors are derived and distinguished, using factor analysis: general trust and kinship trust. Farm households are less likely to contribute to public goods when they perceive more secure land rights, but trust has mixed effects on public goods. The results show that general trust and kinship trust may rely on two opposite effects for influencing public goods provision. On the one hand, high levels of general trust may directly enhance people's willingness to provide contributions to public goods (by reduced likelihood to reconvert forest land) when farmers are aware of the positive environmental effects of the program, that's the public goods effect. On the other hand, general trust may also make it more likely that people invest more in their own private goods to pursue their own welfare (a more likely reconversion of forest land to arable land), that's the private goods effect. The final outcome depends on the size and direction of both effects. Compared to general trust, kinship trust is more inward-looking and self- or group-interested compared to more reciprocal general trust. Thus, unlike general trust, kinship trust may have no significant public goods effect on the provisioning of public goods.
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