Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

SSE Working Paper Series in Economic History,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 2018:1: Tracing the Historic Roots of Generalized Trust

Benjamin Kalischer Wellander and Tino Sanandaji ()
Additional contact information
Tino Sanandaji: Institute for Economic and Business History Research, Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: This paper reviews the literature on the historic roots of trust, with a particular focus on Scandinavia. While there are many surveys on various aspects of trust, none reviews the growing literature on the historic roots of trust. One of the most striking facts is the robust cross-country differences in trust. The share of the population who generally trusts others ranges between 60-70 percent in Scandinavian countries and as low as 3-4 percent in countries such as Colombia and the Philippines. The key problem in disentangling the historic roots of trust is that systematic measurements do not go back far enough, as trust was first systematically measured in 1942 in the United States. The lack of historic data has in recent years led scholars to develop other methods to indirectly trace historic roots, such as comparing the trust rates of decedents of immigrants based on the arrival year of their ancestors. This new line of research suggests that the roots of trust are deep and that high Scandinavian trust emerged prior to the welfare state.

Keywords: Trust; Social capital; economic development

JEL-codes: N10; Z13

37 pages, First version: March 27, 2018. Revised: May 10, 2018.

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