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measures of social capital and trust

o'higgins, s. niall and Sbriglia, Patrizia (2007): measures of social capital and trust.

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Abstract

Trust and trustworthiness are important components of social capital and much attention has been devoted to the problems of their correct evaluation. Attitudinal survey questions as reported in the EVS – European Value Survey - are often regarded as inefficient indicators of trust, since they lack of behavioural underpinnings (Putnam, 1995) which one might desire when measuring trust. In this paper, we consider alternative measures of trust and trustworthiness, based on behavioural assumptions. We construct two relative behavioural measures of trust (RBM1 and RBM2), both based on the ex post measurement of trust, once individuals are informed on the level of trustworthiness of the social group to which they have been allocated during the experiment. Our main finding is that the relative behavioural measures show that trust strongly varies once the individual is informed on the on the level of trustworthiness of the social group to which he\she has been allocated during the experiment. This difference is higher the higher is the family level of income and the parental education status. As for previous findings (Glaeser et al., 2000, Lazzarini, 2005) which have found no correlation between attitudinal and behavioural measures of trust, we find that relative behavioural measures are not correlated to attitudinal measures but they are strongly correlated to groups’ trustworthiness. We also find that similar social preferences profiles (between Senders and Recipients) tend to enhance the individual level of trust, in the RBM2 context. This result seems to confirm the importance of the homogeneity of the social environment when studying the effects of policy interventions (Alesina and La Ferrara, 2002).

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