Longitudinal Evidence on Social Trust and Happiness in China: Causal Effects and Mechanisms

  • Haiyang Lu
  • Peishan Tong
  • Rong ZhuEmail author
Research Paper


Previous studies examining the impact of social trust on happiness often face the difficulties of tackling the problems of potential endogeneity. Using an instrumental variables strategy and a two-stage residual inclusion approach, this paper explores the causal impact of social trust on individual happiness in China. We find robust evidence that a positive, causal relationship between social trust and happiness exist in China. We also find significant heterogeneity in the impact across genders and places of residence. The happiness of males and urban residents is more likely to be affected by social trust, compared to the happiness of female and rural residents, respectively. We further show that the key mechanisms through which social trust affects happiness are changes in self-reported health, social ties, perceived fairness of the society and subjective socioeconomic status.


Happiness Social trust Mechanism China 



We are grateful to the Co-Editor (Stephanie Rossouw) and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. Haiyang Lu acknowledges the financial support by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71603052), Humanity and Social Science Youth Foundation of Ministry of Education (Grant No. 16YJCZH065), and Project of Outstanding Research Talents of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (Grant No. xjq201631). Rong Zhu acknowledges the financial support by the Australian Research Council Linkage Project (ARC LP170100718). The data set used in this study was provided by the Center for Social Science Survey at Sun Yat-Sen University, and raw data can be applied via official email ( The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public ManagementFujian Agriculture and Forestry UniversityFuzhouChina
  2. 2.College of Business, Government and LawFlinders UniversityBedford ParkAustralia

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