Social Trust, Ethnic Diversity, and Religious Heterogeneity: Evidence From Nigeria

Posted: 10 Sep 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: August 2, 2020


Social capital is defined as shared norms, values, and understandings that facilitate collaboration within and among groups, trust is an essential component of social capital. Social trust is the belief that people are generally fair and should be trusted. In the personal context, the degree of trust of people in each other is influenced by both the person's personal experience and the characteristics of his social group, culture, and community.

Trust is an important factor in the appropriate functioning of societies and plays a significant role in determining economic activity. Prior research has proven that higher levels of trust and trustworthiness contribute to the proper functioning of societies and the efficiency of economic activity. Nevertheless, trust does not contribute to social welfare when individuals trust persons or organizations that are not trustworthy. Prior research suggests that trusting non-reliable people and organizations is an aiding factor in the success of fraud.

Group affiliation is an important factor in determining the individuals' social views and in shaping his level of trust in others. People expect decent behavior from members of the group they are a part of, compared to people that are not members of their group. Cultural characteristics affect the level of trust within the groups and with outsiders. As a result, the social composition of nations may affect the level of trust between individuals who comprise it.

Generalized trust refers to the degree to which individuals believe that most people can be trusted. This study examines the correlation between generalized trust, religious identity, and ethnic origin in Nigeria. Nigeria is a nation with a heterogeneous population, which makes it an interesting field of research to study the context of trust and heterogeneous society. We conducted the study using the latest round of World Values Survey (WVS) questionnaires, which was distributed in Nigeria in 2012 and included 1,759 participants. The study examined religious and ethnic factors that are correlated with the level of generalized trust, using control variables for a wide range of characteristics. The analysis shows that group affiliation and cultural characteristics are linked with generalized trust.

Keywords: Trust, Ethnicity

Suggested Citation

Bayer, Ya'akov, Social Trust, Ethnic Diversity, and Religious Heterogeneity: Evidence From Nigeria (August 2, 2020). Available at SSRN:

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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