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How Durable are Social Norms? Immigrant Trust and Generosity in 132 Countries

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  • John F. Helliwell
  • Shun Wang
  • Jinwen Xu

Abstract

This paper estimates the global prevalence of social trust and generosity among immigrants. We combine individual and national level data from immigrants and native-born respondents in more than 130 countries, using seven waves of the Gallup World Poll (2005–2012). We find that migrants tend to make social trust assessments that mainly reflect conditions in the country where they now live, but they also reveal a significant influence from their countries of origin. The latter effect is one-third as important as the effect of local conditions. We also find that the altruistic behavior of migrants, as measured by the frequency of their donations in their new countries, is strongly determined by social norms in their new countries, while also retaining some effect of the levels of generosity found in their birth countries. To show that the durability of social norms is not simply due to a failure to recognize new circumstances, we demonstrate that there are no footprint effects for immigrants’ confidence in political institutions. Taken together, these findings support the notion that social norms are deeply rooted in long-standing cultures, yet are nonetheless subject to adaptation when there are major changes in the surrounding circumstances and environment.

Suggested Citation

  • John F. Helliwell & Shun Wang & Jinwen Xu, 2014. "How Durable are Social Norms? Immigrant Trust and Generosity in 132 Countries," NBER Working Papers 19855, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19855
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kirk Hamilton & John F. Helliwell & Michael Woolcock, 2016. "Social Capital, Trust and Well-being in the Evaluation of Wealth," NBER Working Papers 22556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Naci Mocan & Christian Raschke, 2016. "Economic well-being and anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and racist attitudes in Germany," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 1-63, February.
    3. John F. Helliwell & Lara B. Aknin & Hugh Shiplett & Haifang Huang & Shun Wang, 2017. "Social Capital and Prosocial Behaviour as Sources of Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 23761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Eugen Dimant & Tim Krieger & Margarete Redlin, 2015. "A Crook is a Crook … But is He Still a Crook Abroad? On the Effect of Immigration on Destination-Country Corruption," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 16(4), pages 464-489, November.
    5. repec:eee:ecmode:v:68:y:2018:i:c:p:293-305 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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