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Who trusts? The origins of social trust in seven nations

  • Delhey, Jan
  • Newton, Kenneth

This paper identifies six main theories of the determinants of social trust, and tests them against survey data from seven nations, 1999-2001. Three of the six theories of trust fare rather poorly and three do better. First and foremost, social trust tends to be high among citizens who believe that there are few severe social conflicts and where the sense of public safety is high. Second, informal social networks are associated with trust. And third, those who are successful in life trust more, or are more inclined by their personal experience to do so. Individual theories seem to work best in societies with higher levels of trust, and societal ones in societies with lower levels of trust. This may have something to do with the fact that our two low trust societies happen to have experienced revolutionary change in the very recent past, so that societal events have overwhelmed individual circumstances.

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Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Social Structure and Social Reporting with number FS III 02-402.

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Date of creation: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbssr:fsiii02402
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  1. Delhey, Jan & Böhnke, Petra & Habich, Roland & Zapf, Wolfgang, 2001. "The Euromodule: a new instrument for comparative welfare research," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Social Structure and Social Reporting FS III 01-401, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  2. Cusack, Thomas R., 1997. "On the road to Weimar? The political economy of popular satisfaction with government and regime performance in Germany," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economic Change and Employment FS I 97-303, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
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