Trust and its determinants: evidence from the Trustlab experiment

Social Macroeconomics working paper
Fabrice Murtin
Lara Fleischer
Vincent Siegerink
Arnstein Aassve
Romina Boarini
Santiago Gonzalez
Zsuzsanna Lonti
Gianluca Grimalda
Ulrich Schmidt
Rafael Hortala Vallve
Soonhee Kim
David Lee
Louis Putterman
Conal Smith
Abstract

This paper describes the results of an international initiative on trust (Trustlab) run in six OECD countries between November 2016 and November 2017 (France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Slovenia and the United States). Trustlab combines cutting-edge techniques drawn from behavioural science and experimental economics with an extensive survey on the policy and contextual determinants of trust in others and trust in institutions, administered to representative samples of participants.

The main results are as follows:

  • Self-reported measures of trust in institutions are validated experimentally.
  • Self-reported measures of trust in others capture a belief about trustworthiness (as well as altruistic preferences), whereas experimental measures rather capture willingness to cooperate and one’s own trustworthiness. Therefore, both measures are loosely related, and should be considered complementary rather than substitutes.
  • Perceptions of institutional performance strongly correlate with both trust in government and trust in others.
  • Perceived government integrity is the strongest determinant of trust in government.
  • In addition to indicators associated with social capital, such as neighbourhood connectedness and attitudes towards immigration, perceived satisfaction with public services, social preferences and expectations matter for trust in others.
  • There is a large scope for policy action, as an increase in all significant determinants of trust in government by one standard deviation may be conducive to an increase in trust by 30 to 60%.