Men trust people more than women do

By Razib Khan | May 9, 2011 1:58 am

One of the weird things I randomly noticed when querying the “TRUST” variable in the GSS was that men were more trusting than women. I didn’t think much of that, but take a look at this logistic regression:

Trust in people, sample from after the year 2000
Logistic regression
Variable All Non-Hispanic white
B Probability B Probability
SEX -0.340 0.000 -0.485 0.000
WORDSUM 0.176 0.000 0.201 0.000
DEGREE 0.343 0.000 0.274 0.000
COHORT -0.018 0.000 -0.013 0.001
SEI 0.002 0.393 0.003 0.394
POLVIEWS -0.105 0.011 -0.121 0.018
PARTYID 0.073 0.019 0.011 0.777
GOD -0.035 0.438 0.015 0.765
ATTEND 0.023 0.261 0.038 0.105
Pseduo R-square = 0.096 Pseduo R-square = 0.083

The outcomes are “can trust people = 1″ and “cannot trust people = 0.” I removed “depends” (which is never more than 5-10% in a class anyway). For sex 1 = male and 2 = female, so you can immediately see that being a woman will reduce the odds of being trusting. WORDSUM, vocabulary score, and educational attainment go in the direction you’d expect. Interestingly controlling for education doesn’t remove the vocabulary effect. COHORT is the year you were born. Lower values indicate older individuals in the data set. Younger people are less trusting, so this makes sense. To my surprise on the individual level religion doesn’t seem that important.

Since the sample sizes for sex are huge I thought I’d compare sex differences in trust over the years by demographic variable.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Data Analysis, GSS, Social Science
MORE ABOUT: Data Analysis, GSS, Trust
  • http://atmos.uw.edu/~achen89 Simfish InquilineKea

    Very interesting results. One thing with trust is that people may have different conceptions of trust (I wonder how hard this will be to quantify?). More intelligent people may have more realistic expectations of what other people do, and this means that they modify their behavior in a way such that they don’t expect others to violate their trust.

  • Åse

    Wow! Considering that I’m all into altruism and role of punishment and all that right now (thanks in part to book recommendations from this blog), I’m wondering if that has something to do with it – more of a sense that one can attain justice, and won’t be taken advantage of. Possibly a status question rather than gender question, perhaps (oh – I see gender studies attacking this like … well…) But, interesting result…. (hmmm)

  • bob sykes

    This result might be expected. After all, men spontaneously form all sort of teams to achieve some common goal. This is probably a result of the foraging life-style where teams increased hunting efficiency but gathering did not require teams.

  • Charles Nydorf

    Its possible that the effect comes from intelligent women bringing an outsider’s perspective to established institutions. Women, for example, are prominent among the people who sensed something wrong with the pre2008 real estate market.

  • Matt

    Women get their trust abused more than men, learning not to trust so much.

    In social situations, men’s lies to women are more numerous and significant than women’s lies to men or men’s lies to men. E.g., “Are you married?” This is the result of a biological imperative that motivate men to lie.

  • marcel

    I understood the headline of the post on first read not as “Men trust people more than women [do]” but as “Men trust people more than [than they do] women”.

  • glenn

    Maybe it’s too early Monday morning for me to remember the obvious, but could someone tell me what happened in 1983 & 1984?

  • Ian

    Risk assessment? People (mugger, rapists, carjackers, violent ex-boyfriends) are generally perceived as being more likely to attack women than men. (True or not, that’s how popular culture portrays it.) So it strikes me as unsurprising, though of course, it’s definitely interesting to see data.

  • adam

    Sorry for the irrelevant derail, but is anyone else having problems with gnxp intermittently loading a fake ‘your computer has a virus’ page? For the last couple of posts, when I visit from my rss feed the whole page becomes a ‘virus’ page about 25% of the time. That’s only happening for me for this blog. Maybe get someone to check that out?

    [they’re looking at it -Razib]

    [#2 will fix in one hour. problem with ad service -Razib]

    [#3 it is fixed -Razib]

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    Interesting that women have more education on average, and that educated people are on average more trusting, yet men are more trusting than women. Controlling for education, the gender effect on trust should be a bit strong than it appears.

  • AG

    Majority of scam victims are females based on my impression. So they are reactive to their experience?

    Certainly con artists like to target women. Any thing to do with some aspect of intelligence?

    Gender aside, con artists certainly like to pull trick on people they feel easy or stupid.

    Maybe smartness is best deterrence to scam.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    After all, men spontaneously form all sort of teams to achieve some common goal. This is probably a result of the foraging life-style where teams increased hunting efficiency but gathering did not require teams.

    yeah, i wonder that. men have lower social intelligence too.

  • Adriana

    I’m not sure I’m reading these graphs correctly. Is the Y axis % that answered “can trust people”?

    What happens if you include the “it depends” answer? Some graphs show very little difference between males and females and I was wondering if the “it depends” option would make the difference disappear at least for some of the variables you looked at.

    One graph that stuck out for me is the “liberals” category; in the 2000s it seems that liberal men and liberal women levels of trust are the same. Also, there is a little spike after Obama’s election.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    What happens if you include the “it depends” answer? Some graphs show very little difference between males and females and I was wondering if the “it depends” option would make the difference disappear at least for some of the variables you looked at.

    it seemed a wash. i was going to do a “mean value” by converting the proportions to weights with each response being a categorical. this seemed more intuitive.

  • David S.

    Anyone know what’s causing the spike around 1984?

  • Matt B.

    Something’s weird with the time axis. Even though the marks are evenly spaced, the amount of time from one to the next varies.

    As for the spike in 1984, my guess is comparison between reality and an SF novel.

  • Alam

    “Anyone know what’s causing the spike around 1984?”

    I dont know. But how about his:

    Ronald Reagan defeats Walter F. Mondale with 59% of the popular vote, the highest since Richard Nixon’s 61% victory in 1972. Reagan carries 49 states in the electoral college;

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

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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