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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 University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Munich Reprints in Economics with number 19809.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Comparative Economics 2 37(2009): pp. 251-269
Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:19809
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  1. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Bernhard von Rosenbladt & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, . "A Nation-Wide Laboratory: Examining trust and trustworthiness by integrating behavioral experiments into representative surveys," IEW - Working Papers 141, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Joel Slemrod & Peter Katuscak, 2002. "Do Trust and Trustworthiness Pay Off?," NBER Working Papers 9200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Rainer, Helmut & Siedler, Thomas, 2006. "Does democracy foster trust?," ISER Working Paper Series 2006-31, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  13. Alberto Alesina & Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln, 2005. "Good bye Lenin (or not?): The effect of Communism on people's preferences," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2076, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  14. Dennis J. Snower & Christian Merkl, 2006. "The Caring Hand that Cripples: The East German Labor Market after Reunification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 375-382, May.
  15. 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.
  16. 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).
  17. 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.
  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. Joachim R. Frick & Jan Goebel, 2005. "Regional Income Stratification in Unified Germany using a Gini Decomposition Approach," Working Papers 15, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  23. 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.
  24. Alesina, Alberto F & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2000. "Who Trusts Others?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2646, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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