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New Evidence on Trust and Well-being

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  • John F. Helliwell
  • Haifang Huang
  • Shun Wang

Abstract

This paper first uses data from three large international surveys – the Gallup World Poll, the World Values Survey and the European Social Survey – to estimate income-equivalent values for social trust, with a likely lower bound equivalent to a doubling of household income. Second, the more detailed and precisely measured trust data in the European Social Survey (ESS) show that social trust is only a part of the overall climate of trust. While social trust and trust in police are the most important elements, there are significant additional benefits from trust in three aspects of the institutional environment: the legal system, parliament and politicians. Thus estimates of the total well-being value of a trustworthy environment are larger than those based on social trust alone. Third, the ESS data show that living in a high-trust environment makes people more resilient to adversity. Being subject to discrimination, ill-health or unemployment, although always damaging to subjective well-being, is much less damaging to those living in trustworthy environments. These results suggest a fresh set of links between trust and inequality. Individuals who are subject to discrimination, ill-health or unemployment are typically concentrated towards the lower end of any national distribution of happiness. Thus the resilience-increasing feature of social trust reduces well-being inequality by channeling the largest benefits to those at the low end of the well-being distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • John F. Helliwell & Haifang Huang & Shun Wang, 2016. "New Evidence on Trust and Well-being," NBER Working Papers 22450, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22450
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. New Evidence on Trust and Well-being
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2016-09-06 01:21:12

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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. Conzo, Pierluigi & Aassve, Arnstein & Fuochi, Giulia & Mencarini, Letizia, 2017. "The cultural foundations of happiness," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 268-283.
    3. Leonardo Becchetti & Luca Corazzini & Vittorio Pelligra, 2018. "We Can Be Heroes. Trust and Resilience in Corrupted Economic Environments," CEIS Research Paper 429, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 11 Apr 2018.
    4. Jesse Bricker & Geng Li, 2017. "Credit Scores, Social Capital, and Stock Market Participation," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2017-008, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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