IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Does Democracy Foster Trust? Evidence from the German Reunification

  • Helmut Rainer


  • Thomas Siedler


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) and from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP), we obtain two sets of results. On one side, we find that, shortly after reunification, East Germans displayed a significantly less trusting attitude than West Germans. This suggests a negative effect of communism in East Germany versus democracy in West Germany on social and institutional trust. However, 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 causes, 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. Our main conclusion is that democracy can foster trust in post-communist societies only when citizens' economic outcomes are right.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University of Essex, Department of Economics in its series Economics Discussion Papers with number 613.

in new window

Date of creation: 16 May 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:esx:essedp:613
Contact details of provider: Postal: Wivenhoe Park, COLCHESTER. CO4 3SQ
Phone: +44-1206-872728
Fax: +44-1206-872724
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Postal: Discussion Papers Administrator, Department of Economics, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, U.K.

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Joel Slemrod & Peter Katuscak, 2002. "Do Trust and Trustworthiness Pay Off?," NBER Working Papers 9200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe, 2006. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," IZA Discussion Papers 2380, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Bernhard von Rosenbladt & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2002. "A Nation-Wide Laboratory: Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioral Experiments into Representative Surveys," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 319, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  4. Alberto Alesina & Nichola Fuchs Schuendeln, 2005. "Good bye Lenin (or not?): The Effect of Communism on People's Preferences," NBER Working Papers 11700, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Bernd Görzig & Martin Gornig & Axel Werwatz, 2004. "East Germany's Wage Gap: A Non-Parametric Decomposition Based on Establishment Characteristics," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 451, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  8. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
  9. 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).
  10. Timothy Besley & Masayuki Kudamatsu, 2006. "Health and Democracy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 313-318, May.
  11. Alesina, Alberto F & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2000. "Who Trusts Others?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2646, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:esx:essedp:613. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Essex Economics Web Manager)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.