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The Determinants of Trust

  • Alberto Alesina
  • Eliana La Ferrara

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7621.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7621.

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Date of creation: Mar 2000
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7621
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  1. 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.
  2. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 1998. "The Quality of Goverment," NBER Working Papers 6727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. La Ferrara, Eliana & Alesina, Alberto, 2000. "Participation in Heterogeneous Communities," Scholarly Articles 4551796, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1997. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," NBER Working Papers 6009, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. James M. Poterba, 1996. "Demographic Structure and the Political Economy of Public Education," NBER Working Papers 5677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2000. "Participation in Heterogeneous Communities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 847-904.
  8. 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.
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