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Analysing the Radius of Trust in Rural Cameroon


  • Alvin Etang


Survey data have generally found trust to be much lower in Africa than in developed countries. This paper analyses the extent to which trust decreases with social distance, using data from a survey conducted in a village in rural Cameroon. Participants are asked a number of questions about trust in people with varying levels of social distance: fellow group members, fellow villagers, people from neighbouring villages and people in general. The results indicate that the level of trust diminishes as social distance (the radius of trust) increases. There is more trust in fellow group members than there is in other villagers, and more trust in fellow villagers than there is in those outside the village. I also analyse the correlation between the respondents' characteristics and trust. A substantial part of the variation in levels of trust can be explained by observable individual characteristics. The main correlates of trust are education, whether the respondent is divorced and the number of years lived in the village. Divorced persons are significantly less trusting, while increases in the number of years lived in the village are associated with increases in the levels of trust. People who have completed primary education are significantly more trusting. In only one case (trust in fellow villagers) is age significantly correlated with trust, and its effect is negative. Income is significantly positively correlated with trust in fellow villagers and trust in people from neighbouring villages as well, but uncorrelated with trust in people in general. Respondents' personal characteristics are insignificantly correlated with trust as social distance increases. Copyright 2010 The author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Centre for the Study of African Economies. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Alvin Etang, 2010. "Analysing the Radius of Trust in Rural Cameroon," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 19(5), pages 691-717, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jafrec:v:19:y:2010:i:5:p:691-717

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