Social Trust

One of the most pressing questions for policy is how to promote and foster trust where it is absent and how to protect it where it is high. This paper presents some research-based conclusions and policy-recommendations that are relevant for addressing those questions.

Human prosperity comes from cooperation, and cooperation is aided by trust. As expected, countries, cities, and areas where trust between people is high, tend to have high levels of prosperity almost regardless of how prosperity is defined and measured.

Some main conclusions from the paper:

  • There is a green aspect of social trust in that it helps people to overcome problems of collective action.
  • Variation in social trust has deep historical roots and is partly inherited across generations. As a result, social trust is a sticky personality trait.
  • Social trust is not deterministic. To foster social trust, policy should focus on the rule of law, economic growth, health, and education.
  • Ethnic diversity is not necessarily detrimental for social trust, but forced contacts between ethnic groups may backfire.

About the author

Andreas Bergh is Associate Professor in Economics at Lund University in Sweden and at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm. His research concerns the welfare state, institutions, development, globalization, trust and social norms. He has published in the European Economic Review, World Development, European Sociological Review and Public Choice. He is the author of “Sweden and the revival of the capitalist welfare state” (Edward Elgar Publishing).

About the editor

Markus Barnevik Olsson is a Climate & Trust Coordinator at Fores and holds a BSc in Political Science from Lund University.

About ELF

The European Liberal Forum (ELF) is the official political foundation of the European Liberal Party, the ALDE Party. Together with 46 member organisations, we work all over Europe to bring new ideas into the political debate, to provide a platform for discussion, and to empower citizens to make their voices heard. ELF was founded in 2007 to strengthen the liberal and democrat movement in Europe. Our work is guided by liberal ideals and a belief in the principle of freedom. We stand for a future-oriented Europe that offers opportunities for every citizen. ELF is engaged on all political levels, from the local to the European. We bring together a diverse network of national foundations, think tanks and other experts. At the same time, we are also close to, but independent from, the ALDE Party and other Liberal actors in Europe. In this role, our forum serves as a space for an open and informed exchange of views between a wide range of different actors.

About Tankesmedjan Fores

Fores – Forum for reforms, entrepreneurship and sustainability – is the green and liberal think tank based in Sweden. With one foot in academia and the other in the public debate, Fores works every day towards solutions and policies that strengthen the liberal democracy. Through our three work groups we seek scientifically based, forward-looking policies on Growth, Security and Trust.