The Determinants of Trust

34 Pages Posted: 18 May 2000  

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Eliana La Ferrara

University of Bocconi - Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research (IGIER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: March 2000

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.

JEL Classification: H00

Suggested Citation

Alesina, Alberto F. and La Ferrara, Eliana, The Determinants of Trust (March 2000). NBER Working Paper No. W7621. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=228105

Alberto F. Alesina (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-8388 (Phone)
617-495-7730 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Eliana La Ferrara

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

University of Bocconi - Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research (IGIER) ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy
+39 02 5836 3328 (Phone)
+39 02 5836 3302 (Fax)

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