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The development of trust and social capital in rural Uganda: An experimental approach


  • Paul Mosley


  • Arjan Verschoor

    (Department of Economics, The University of Sheffield)


Trust is important for development but can be hard to build. In this paper, we report on experiments designed to understand the determinants of trust in villages in eastern Uganda, and in particular whether trust can be `built´ by offering insurance to people as a protection against the possibility that the trust they offer will not be reciprocated. We find, firstly, that the effects of income and wealth on trust are ambiguous: trust is higher in the richer than the poorer village, but once association and female education are added as explanatory variables, the wealth effect disappears. Secondly, although the offer of insurance is taken up by a majority of players, this is in most cases not an `effective demand´ in the sense of incentivising higher levels of trust. Effective demand for insurance, defined in this way, however responds positively to high levels of risk efficacy, microfinance membership and female education. Insurance offered in this form, therefore, is on its own apparently not a reliable technology for building trust; but its effectiveness as a trust-building instrument appears to increase if certain complementary institutions are in position.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Mosley & Arjan Verschoor, 2005. "The development of trust and social capital in rural Uganda: An experimental approach," Working Papers 2005011, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2005.
  • Handle: RePEc:shf:wpaper:2005011

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Joseph Henrich, 2000. "Does Culture Matter in Economic Behavior? Ultimatum Game Bargaining among the Machiguenga of the Peruvian Amazon," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 973-979, September.
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    3. Edward L. Glaeser & David I. Laibson & José A. Scheinkman & Christine L. Soutter, 2000. "Measuring Trust," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 811-846.
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    4. Roth, Alvin E. & Vesna Prasnikar & Masahiro Okuno-Fujiwara & Shmuel Zamir, 1991. "Bargaining and Market Behavior in Jerusalem, Ljubljana, Pittsburgh, and Tokyo: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1068-1095, December.
    5. Steven N. Durlauf, 2002. "On the Empirics of Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 459-479, November.
    6. Abigail Barr, 2003. "Trust and expected trustworthiness: experimental evidence from zimbabwean villages," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(489), pages 614-630, July.
    7. Edward L. Glaeser & David Laibson & Bruce Sacerdote, 2002. "An Economic Approach to Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 437-458, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tanaka, Tomomi & Camerer, Colin & Nguyen, Quang, 2009. "Measuring Norms of Redistributive Transfers: Trust Experiments and Survey Data from Vietnam," MPRA Paper 16119, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Juan Camilo Cardenas & Jeffrey P. Carpenter, 2005. "Experiments and Economic Development: Lessons from Field Labs in the Developing World," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0505, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
    3. Juan Camilo Cardenas & Jeffrey Carpenter, 2008. "Behavioural Development Economics: Lessons from Field Labs in the Developing World," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(3), pages 311-338.
    4. Tomomi Tanaka & Colin F. Camerer & Quang Nguyen, 2006. "Preferences, Poverty and Politics: Experimental and Survey Data from Vietnam," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000054, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. Alvin Etang Ndip & David Fielding & Stephen Knowles, 2007. "Survey Trust, Experimental Trust and ROSCA Membership in Rural Cameroon," Working Papers 0713, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Nov 2007.
    6. Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Mahmud, Minhaj & Martinsson, Peter, 2013. "Trust, trust games and stated trust: Evidence from rural Bangladesh," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 286-298.
    7. Greig, Fiona & Bohnet, Iris, 2005. "Is There Reciprocity in a Reciprocal Exchange Economy? Evidence from a Slum in Nairobi, Kenya," Working Paper Series rwp05-044, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    8. Tomomi Tanaka & Colin F Camerer & Quang Nguyen, 2006. "Poverty, politics, and preferences: Field Experiments and survey data from Vietnam," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001099, UCLA Department of Economics.
    9. Alvin Etang, 2008. "Modelling the Effects of Socio-Economic Characteristics on Survey Trust: Empirical Evidence from Cameroon," Working Papers 0808, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Oct 2008.
    10. Alvin Etang & David Fielding & Stephen Knowles, 2011. "Does trust extend beyond the village? Experimental trust and social distance in Cameroon," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(1), pages 15-35, March.

    More about this item


    Trust; Social Capital; Insurance; Uganda;

    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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