Trust may be one of the biggest mysteries in the history of mankind. Can you rely on your comrade while hunting an animal 10.000 B.C? Is your friend willing to pay back your five bucks in 2016? The degree of trust is crucial to every relationship between human beings and therefore could be one of the most relevant factors of social behaviour and personal interaction. There have been countless approaches of measurement and research; nevertheless, there are numerous unanswered questions. Samuel Huntington and Lawrence Harrison [1] have shown differences between cultural areas, regional territories or religious influence and the impact of social trust. The authors claim that in combination with enormous influence of wealth (measured in GDP p.P), there are social constructed differences in relation to trustworthiness, which derive from “culture“. The term “culture“ is used as a common term in American research and can be translated into German as “Kulturkreis“. There are strong evidences of culture influencing trust among people and, as Huntington and Lawrence mention, it might be even stronger than the socioeconomic impact. However, like with countless other researchers, Huntington’s and Lawrence’s “one-way thinking” might be effective, however, they seem to ignore the possible crossroads on their way. There might be various different independent variables responsible for the degree of trust in different states.

The famous diagram presented in lecture 3 shows the result of Lawrence’s and Huntington’s work:

trust_pic

The authors have not published the exact numbers of their research, which makes it impossible to reconstruct their scientific method and data. In addition, there is no regression line that reveals the deviation from the “normal“ degree of trust among people in country X. Furthermore, it would be worthwhile thinking of different clusters influencing the trustworthiness of people in order to develop a multi-causal perspective. Therefore I had to develop my own dataset to compare different types of variables with the category of trust. As the basic data to trust I applied to the “General Trust Question“ of the “Society at Glance“. [2] The other variables I obtained from different sources, specified in the next paragraphs. My first findings are interesting, although it’s hard to get valid and enough data with regard trustworthiness. The SaG did the survey only in 26 countries, with an almost total focus on Europe, which means that the standard mistake in a possible regression might be high.

trust

Criminality

One of the first things that come into your mind when thinking of trustworthiness is criminality. If someone betrays you, it is not necessarily an act against law, but in a surrounding with enormous criminal structures, you think twice when it comes to rely on a person. The biggest problem about criminality is how to operationalize it. There are plenty of problems, and there is no real „criminality-indicator“. Due to a lack of the rule of law, the prosecution rate might be low, but there is a higher level of criminal incidences. I used the rate of homicide [3], which can be found for almost every country and which has the highest prosecution rate and might depict the reality as best as possible. But as you can see, the result is only at 0,397. There might be no strong relation because trust is generally inflicted by offences like robbery, theft, betrayal etc. Although criminality might affect the level of trust, it cannot be proven that criminality itself is depending on other factors, like wealth, socioeconomic structure or missing trust.

Stability of State

The Scandinavians are the countries with the highest level of trust. There are plenty factors that show a similarity between Norway, Sweden and Denmark. One explanation is that these are very old nations with no big changes in constitutions. Scandinavians hate revolutions. Because your idiosyncratic knowledge tells you that your state is unlikely to fail, to change or to break down, you have a bigger amount of trust in persons, because the background setup will not change. I compared the duration of the state (in years) without any big caesura to the level of trust, however, it is just a mediocre correlation around 0,4 as well.

GDP per capita

I used the GDP per person as a kind of control variable due to my own dataset and the fact, that the wealth of a country is one of the biggest reasons of trustworthiness. I got the same result as many researchers before: The richer you are the more trust you have. A very significant score of 0,712 was the result, which is nearly the same as in some older researches. I used the data from the IWF statistics in 2015. [4]

Church attendancy

Francis Fukuyama [5] pointed out, that Catholics are less trustworthiness as the Protestants due to their different thinking when it comes to family. They trust their own family more than their counterpart and rely less on friends or acquaintances. Huntington came to a similar conclusion, namely, that religions are influencing peoples’ behaviour. But what if there are no differences between the religion, but only with the importance of faith in everybody’s life? A “gallup” report from 2004 [6]asked for the weekly church attendance rate in different countries, which I enlarged by other polls for the missing countries. There are significant differences between the church attendance rate, and surprisingly it has  a correlation-coefficient of 0,77 with the amount of trust, even higher than the GDP per Capita.

Conclusion

I have to stress that there are no clear statements about the causality between trust and other factors. For example the church attendance rate can be rise due to a higher criminality, which derives from income level of the income equality. Especially in these much related variables you cannot make a clear statement about what came first. As well it should be clear, that there are more than one or two simple factors, which determine the level of trust in a country, but many reasons which can inflict your behaviour among people.

If the research in trust could enlighten the dark spaces of psychological or historical thinking there could be a huge leap in development economics. An ascending level of trust might increase wealth and living standard in all places around the world. Nietzsche, perhaps the most untrustworthy philosopher in modern thinking, summarized the problem in the following words:

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

 

[1] Lawrence/Huntington: Culture Matters, Basic Books, 2001.

[2] Society at Glance: OECD iLibrary, Social Indicators, Trust-Question.

[3] UNOCD: Intentional homicide count and rate per 100.000 population by country/territory, online.
https://www.unodc.org/gsh/en/data.html

[4] IMF: Datamapper, GDP per Person PPP, online:
http://www.imf.org/external/datamapper/index.php

[5] Fukuyama: Trust, The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, Free Press Edition, 1996.

[6] Gallup poll 2014, Religion in Europe: http://www.gallup.com/poll/13117/religion-europe-trust-filling-pews.aspx

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