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The Determinants of Trust

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  • Alberto Alesina
  • Eliana La Ferrara

Abstract

Both individual experiences and community characteristics influence how much people trust each other. Using data drawn from US localities we find that the strongest factors that reduce trust are: i) a recent history of traumatic experiences, even though the passage of time reduces this effect fairly rapidly; ii) belonging to a group that historically felt discriminated against, such as minorities (black in particular) and, to a lesser extent, women; iii) being economically unsuccessful in terms of income and education; iv) living in a racially mixed community and/or in one with a high degree of income disparity. Religious beliefs and ethnic origins do not significantly affect trust. The latter result may be an indication that the American melting pot at least up to a point works, in terms of homogenizing attitudes of different cultures, even though racial cleavages leading to low trust are still quite high.

Suggested Citation

  • Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2000. "The Determinants of Trust," NBER Working Papers 7621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7621
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    1. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2000. "Participation in Heterogeneous Communities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 847-904.
    2. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
    3. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert, 1999. "The Quality of Government," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 222-279, April.
    4. James M. Poterba, 1997. "Demographic structure and the political economy of public education," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(1), pages 48-66.
    5. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
    6. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jacob L. Vigdor, 1999. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(3), pages 455-506, June.
    7. repec:hrv:faseco:30747160 is not listed on IDEAS
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