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Does democracy foster trust?

  • Rainer, Helmut
  • Siedler, Thomas

The level of trust inherent in a society is important for a wide range of microeconomic and macroeconomic outcomes. This paper investigates how individuals' attitudes toward social and institutional trust are shaped by the political regime in which they live. The German reunification is a unique natural experiment that allows us to conduct such a study. Using data from the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), we obtain several interesting results. We first show that, shortly after reunification, East Germans displayed a significantly less trusting attitude than West Germans. We then show that the experience of democracy by East Germans since reunification did not serve to increase levels of social trust significantly. In fact, we cannot reject the hypothesis that East Germans, after more than a decade of democracy, have the same levels of social distrust as shortly after the collapse of communism. In trying to understand the underlying forces, we show that the persistence of social distrust in the East can be explained by negative economic outcomes that many East Germans experienced in the post-reunification period. Interestingly, and in sharp contrast to social trust, we also find that the levels of institutional trust in the East significantly converge towards those in the West. Journal of Comparative Economics 37 (2) (2009) 251-269.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Comparative Economics.

Volume (Year): 37 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Pages: 251-269

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:37:y:2009:i:2:p:251-269
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622864

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  1. Helmut Rainer & Thomas Siedler, 2006. "Does Democracy Foster Trust?," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 609, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  2. Redding, Stephen J. & Sturm, Daniel M, 2005. "The Costs of Remoteness: Evidence from German Division and Reunification," CEPR Discussion Papers 5015, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  8. Ockenfels, Axel & Weimann, Joachim, 1999. "Types and patterns: an experimental East-West-German comparison of cooperation and solidarity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 275-287, February.
  9. Angrist, Joshua D. & Krueger, Alan B., 1999. "Empirical strategies in labor economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 23, pages 1277-1366 Elsevier.
  10. Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs & von Rosenbladt, Bernhard & Schupp, Jürgen & Wagner, Gert G., 2003. "A nation-wide laboratory: Examining trust and trustworthiness by integrating behavioral experiments into representative surveys," Discussion Papers 2003/1, Technische Universität Berlin, School of Economics and Management.
  11. Joel Slemrod & Peter Katuscak, 2002. "Do Trust and Trustworthiness Pay Off?," NBER Working Papers 9200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  16. Bernd Görzig & Martin Gornig & Axel Werwatz, 2006. "East Germany’s Wage Gap: A non-parametric decomposition based on establishment characteristics," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2006-044, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  17. Frick, Joachim R. & Goebel, Jan, 2005. "Regional Income Stratification in Unified Germany Using a Gini Decomposition Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 1891, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  18. Buchan, Nancy & Croson, Rachel, 2004. "The boundaries of trust: own and others' actions in the US and China," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 485-504, December.
  19. Fuchs-Schundeln, Nicola & Alesina, Alberto, 2007. "Good-Bye Lenin (Or Not?): The Effect of Communism on People's Preferences," Scholarly Articles 4553032, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  20. Jennifer Hunt, 2006. "Staunching Emigration from East Germany: Age and the Determinants of Migration," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(5), pages 1014-1037, 09.
  21. Delhey, Jan & Newton, Kenneth, 2002. "Who trusts? The origins of social trust in seven nations," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Social Structure and Social Reporting FS III 02-402, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  22. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Money Does Matter! Evidence from Increasing Real Income and Life Satisfaction in East Germany Following Reunification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 730-740, June.
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  24. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  25. Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-88, November.
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