Age and Social Trust: Evidence from the United States

21 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2020 Last revised: 6 Nov 2020

See all articles by Ya'akov M. Bayer

Ya'akov M. Bayer

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Beer Sheva Mental Health Center

Date Written: May 7, 2020


Social trust is the belief that people are usually fair and should be trusted. Trust is an essential factor in the proper functioning of societies and plays an important role in determining economic activity. Prior researches show that higher levels of trust and trustworthiness contribute to the efficiency of the economic activity, reduce transaction costs, and contribute to the proper functioning of societies. However, trust does not contribute to society in cases where individuals trust persons or organizations that are not trustworthy. In contexts of consumption, trusting someone who is not trustworthy may help crooks deceiving other individuals. Prior research shows that senior citizens are more likely to be victims of various types of consumer fraud. Some researchers claim that this is due, in part, to the tendency of senior citizens to trust others more than young people do.

Generalized trust refers to the extent to which individuals believe that most people can be trusted. This study examines the correlation between generalized trust and age. We conducted the study using the latest round of World Values Survey (WVS) questionnaires, distributed in the United States in 2011 and included 2,232 participants. The study examined factors that are correlated with the level of generalized trust, using control variables for a wide range of characteristics and emphasizing the age context. The analysis shows that age is associated with generalized trust and that, in general, senior citizens, especially individuals over the age of 70, are more likely to trust others compared to other age groups.

Keywords: Trust, Ageing

Suggested Citation

Bayer, Ya'akov, Age and Social Trust: Evidence from the United States (May 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Ya'akov Bayer (Contact Author)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

1 Ben-Gurion Blvd
Beer-Sheba 84105, 84105

Beer Sheva Mental Health Center ( email )


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