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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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Paper provided by Institute for Social and Economic Research in its series ISER Working Paper Series with number 2006-31.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2006
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Publication status: published
Handle: RePEc:ese:iserwp:2006-31
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  1. Stephen Redding & Daniel M. Sturm, 2005. "The costs of remoteness: evidence from German division and reunification," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3691, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Helmut Rainer & Michael Siedler, 2006. "Does democracy foster trust?," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 200602, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
  3. Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs & Schupp, Jürgen & von Rosenbladt, Bernhard & Wagner, Gert Georg, 2003. "A Nationwide Laboratory Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioural Experiments into Representative Surveys," CEPR Discussion Papers 3858, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  10. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 1998. "Empirical Strategies in Labor Economics," Working Papers 780, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Dohmen, Thomas J. & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2012. "The intergenerational transmission of risk and trust attitudes," Munich Reprints in Economics 20051, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  14. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Bernhard von Rosenbladt & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2003. "A Nation-Wide Laboratory. Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioral Experiments into Representative Survey," CESifo Working Paper Series 866, CESifo Group Munich.
  15. 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.
  16. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  17. Dennis J. Snower & Christian Merkl, 2006. "The Caring Hand that Cripples: The East German Labor Market After Reunification (Detailed Version)," Kiel Working Papers 1263, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  18. 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.
  19. Joel Slemrod & Peter Katuscak, 2002. "Do Trust and Trustworthiness Pay Off?," NBER Working Papers 9200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Harald Uhlig, 2006. "Regional Labor Markets, Network Externalities and Migration: The Case of German Reunification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 383-387, May.
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  22. 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.
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  25. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
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