Which nationalities are trusting

By Razib Khan | April 23, 2009 8:35 am

Reading Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational I was struck and concerned by his data which suggested that once social norms of reciprocity break down it is difficult to regenerate them. In other words, social capital can be thought of as a limited nonrenewable resource, at least proximately. On the macroscale Peter Turchin offers up a historical theory where social capital translated into group cohesion serves as the motor behind the rise & fall of states. And over 10 years ago Francis Fukuyama wrote Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity, which surveyed differences across nations in terms of how economic and social variation hinged on the trust, or lack of, across non-kin within a culture.
As it happens, both data sets in the World Values Survey has a binary question on trust:

Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?
1 – Most people can be trusted
2 – Can´t be too careful

Below I report the % who answered #1 for all the nations in the two data sets. Some nations are therefore duplicated.

Country Most People Can Be Trusted
Sweden 68
Denmark 66.5
Sweden 66.3
Iran 65.3
Netherlands 59.8
Finland 58.9
Finland 58
China 54.5
Switzerland 53.9
Saudi Arabia 53
China 52.3
Vietnam 52.1
Indonesia 51.6
New Zealand 51.2
Iraq 47.6
Australia 46.1
Netherlands 45
Japan 43.1
Canada 42.8
Indonesia 42.5
Thailand 42.5
Belarus 41.9
Hong Kong 41.1
Iceland 41.1
Vietnam 41.1
India 41
Iraq 40.8
Northern Ireland 39.5
USA 39.3
Japan 39.1
Canada 38.8
Egypt 37.9
Germany 37.7
Germany 36.8
Spain 36.2
Ireland 35.8
United States 35.8
Austria 33.9
Italy 32.6
Jordan 30.9
Pakistan 30.8
Belgium 30.7
Great Britain 30.5
Great Britain 29.7
Italy 29.2
South Korea 28.2
Jordan 27.7
Ukraine 27.5
South Korea 27.3
Ukraine 27.2
Bulgaria 26.9
Russia 26.2
Luxembourg 26
Serbia 25.8
Nigeria 25.6
Lithuania 24.9
Albania 24.4
Ethiopia 24.4
Taiwan 24.2
Czech 23.9
Greece 23.7
Russia 23.7
Israel 23.5
Morocco 23.5
Bangladesh 23.5
India 23.3
Estonia 22.8
Chile 22.8
Puerto Rico 22.6
France 22.2
Bulgaria 22.2
Hungary 21.8
Slovenia 21.7
Mexico 21.3
Malta 20.7
Romania 20.3
Andorra 20.1
Spain 20
Poland 19
Poland 18.9
South Africa 18.8
France 18.8
Egypt 18.5
Croatia 18.4
Georgia 18.1
Slovenia 18.1
Moldova 17.9
Argentina 17.6
Mali 17.5
Latvia 17.1
Singapore 16.9
Kyrgyzstan 16.7
Venezuela 15.9
Bosnia 15.8
Turkey 15.7
Slovakia 15.7
Mexico 15.6
Argentina 15.4
Serbia 15.3
Moldova 14.7
Burkina Faso 14.7
Colombia 14.5
Macedonia 13.5
Morocco 13
Chile 12.6
Zimbabwe 11.9
South Africa 11.8
Zambia 11.5
Algeria 11.2
Peru 10.7
Iran 10.6
Romania 10.1
Portugal 10
Cyprus 9.9
Brazil 9.4
Malaysia 8.8
Ghana 8.5
Philippines 8.4
Tanzania 8.1
Uganda 7.6
Peru 6.3
Rwanda 4.9
Turkey 4.9
Trinidad 3.8

There are major discrepancies between the two separate data sets for some nations (e.g., Iran). It could be that the samples, all in the range of 1-2 thousand individuals, are not representative. Or, it could be that the wording of the two questions was slightly different in style, and that difference resulted in very different responses. Finally, there could simply be an error in the reporting of the results (I’ve actually seen this in a few of the results, since it is obvious that they flipped the proportion who do, or don’t, believe in god in same cases).
But there are some general trends which seem likely to be robust. Scandinavians are trusting. Latin Americans are not. For the ex-Communist nations, and a few specific cases such as Rwanda, the lack of trust can probably be attributed to relatively recent historical events. Oh, and all I have to say: go long on Vietnam!

  • Maciano

    For the Netherlands it will be interesting to split trust for the Randstad-provinces (Utrecht, Sth Holland, Nrd Holland) and the rest of the country. I bet the “Randstad region” would be a lot lower in trust.

  • http://sycologist.blogspot.com sycologist

    The question is too vague to have any relevance in my opinion. Look at the high position of Iraq for example.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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