Human Empowerment and Trust in Strangers: The Multilevel Evidence

Abstract

For three decades, scholars have focused on generalized interpersonal trust as the key component of social capital and there is a wide consensus that trust in strangers is the prime indicator of people’s general trust in others. However, little work with a specific focus on trust in strangers has been conducted in a comparative multilevel framework. The few existing studies are inconclusive because of deficiencies in both conceptualization and test strategy. Filling this gap, this article examines the determinants of trust in strangers on the broadest country base ever used in the study of trust, drawing on global cross-cultural evidence from the fifth and sixth rounds of the World Values Surveys—the first international surveys to include a direct question on trust in strangers. Reaching beyond conventional wisdom about the sources of generalized trust, we demonstrate that human empowerment at the country level is a powerful moderator of well-known individual-level determinants of trust. Specifically, in countries with lagging human empowerment, institutional trust, trust in known people, and material satisfaction are the only individual-level characteristics that enhance trust in strangers. We also detect an unexpected negative effect of education where human empowerment is lagging. In sharp contrast, in countries with advanced human empowerment, a much broader set of individual-level characteristics increases trust in strangers. This set includes ethnic tolerance, membership in voluntary associations, social movement activity, emancipative values, subjective well-being, age, and education. These insights inform a multilevel theory of trust, showing that human empowerment operates as a contextual activator of individual trust promoters.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Indeed, only in 2 out 53 countries (Egypt and Vietnam) from the 5th wave and in 5 out 58 countries (Pakistan, Rwanda, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen) from the 6th wave of the WVS the level of trust in strangers is slightly higher than trust in people of another nationality. Three more countries from the 5th and 3 countries from the 6th wave have equal levels for both types. Regarding trust people of another religion, only 3 countries (Bahrain, Tunisia, Yemen) from the WVS6 but not from the WVS5 have higher level than trust in strangers. One country from the WVS5 and 5 countries from the WVS6 have equal shares of respondents trusting in strangers and in people of another religion. In all other countries from the 5th and the 6th wave the level of trust in strangers is significantly lower.

  2. 2.

    We also tested ordered models but they demonstrated similar effects. Since linear models have more straightforward interpretation we are using them throughout the manuscript.

  3. 3.

    After dropping trust in known people and subjective well-being from final multi-level model, locus of control became significant at the 0.05 level in countries with middle level of human empowerment and at the 0.001 level in countries with high level of empowerment.

  4. 4.

    We also tested models with group-centered income which take into account the average decile for each country but the models demonstrated almost identical results.

  5. 5.

    In addition, we estimated models using active and inactive membership as a single category and got similar results.

References

  1. Alesina, A., & Giuliano, P. (2013). Family ties. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. No. w18966. http://www.nber.org/papers/w18966.pdf. Accessed 3 December 2014.

  2. Alesina, A., & La Ferrara, E. (2000). The determinants of trust. http://www.nber.org/papers/w7621. Accessed 14 November 2014.

  3. Allik, J., & Realo, A. (2004). Individualism-collectivism and social capital. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35(1), 29–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Allum, N., Patulny, R., Read, S., & Sturgis, P. (2010). Re-evaluating the links between social trust, institutional trust and civic association. In J. Stillwell, P. Norman, C. Thomas, & P. Surridge (Eds.), Spatial and social disparities (pp. 199–215). Dordrecht: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Almakaeva, A. (2014). Izmereniye generalizirovannogo (obobshchennogo) doveriya v kross-kulturnykh issledovaniyakh. Sotsiologicheskiye Issledovaniya, 11, 32–43.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Banfield, E. C. (1958). The moral basis of a backward society. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Beugelsdijk, S. (2009). A multilevel approach to social capital. International Studies of Management and Organization, 39(2), 65–89.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Beugelsdijk, S., De Groot, H. L., & Van Schaik, A. B. (2004). Trust and economic growth: A robustness analysis. Oxford Economic Papers, 56(1), 118–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bjørnskov, C. (2007). Determinants of generalized trust: A cross-country comparison. Public Choice, 130(1–2), 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Bjørnskov, C. (2008). Social capital and happiness in the United States. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 3(1), 43–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Brambor, T., Clark, W., & Golder, M. (2005). Understanding interaction models: Improving empirical analyses. Political Analysis, 14(1), 63–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Brehm, J., & Rahn, W. (1997). Individual-level evidence for the causes and consequences of social capital. American Journal of Political Science, 41(3), 999–1023.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Buzasi, K. (2015). Languages, communication potential and generalized trust in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence based on the Afrobarometer Survey. Social Science Research, 49, 141–155.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Cingranelli, D. L., & Richards, D. L. (2010). The Cingranelli and Richards (CIRI) human rights data project. Human Rights Quarterly, 32(2), 401–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Claibourn, M. P., & Martin, P. S. (2000). Trusting and joining? An empirical test of the reciprocal nature of social capital. Political Behavior, 22(4), 267–291.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Dekker, P., & Broek, A. V. D. (2005). Involvement in voluntary associations in North America and Western Europe: Trends and correlates 1981–2000. Journal of Civil Society, 1(1), 45–59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Delhey, J., & Newton, K. (2003). Who trusts?: The origins of social trust in seven societies. European Societies, 5(2), 93–137.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Delhey, J., & Newton, K. (2005). Predicting cross-national levels of social trust: Global pattern or Nordic exceptionalism? European Sociological Review, 21(4), 311–327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Delhey, J., Newton, K., & Welzel, C. (2011). How general is trust in «most people»? Solving the radius of trust problem. American Sociological Review, 76(5), 786–807.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Delhey, J., Newton, K., & Welzel, C. (2014). The radius of trust problem remains resolved. American Sociological Review, 79(6), 1260–1265.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Delhey, J., & Welzel, C. (2012). Generalizing Trust: What Extends Trust from Ingroups to Outgroups? World Values Research, 5(3), 45–69.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Dobewall, H., & Rudnev, M. (2014). Common and unique features of Schwartz’s and Inglehart’s value theories at the country and individual levels. Cross-Cultural Research, 48(1), 45–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Elgar, F. J., Davis, C. G., Wohl, M. J., Trites, S. J., Zelenski, J. M., & Martin, M. S. (2011). Social capital, health and life satisfaction in 50 countries. Health & Place, 17(5), 1044–1053.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Freedom House. (2012). Freedom in the world. New York: Freedom House.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Freitag, M. (2003). Social capital in (dis)similar democracies: The development of generalized trust in Japan and Switzerland. Comparative Political Studies, 36(8), 936–966.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Freitag, M., & Bauer, P. C. (2013). Testing for measurement equivalence in surveys: Dimensions of social trust across cultural contexts. Public Opinion Quarterly, 77(S1), 24–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Freitag, M., & Buhlmann, M. (2009). Crafting trust: The role of political institutions in a comparative perspective. Comparative Political Studies, 42(12), 1537–1566.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Freitag, M., & Traunmüller, R. (2009). Spheres of trust: An empirical analysis of the foundations of particularised and generalised trust. European Journal of Political Research, 48(6), 782–803.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Gesthuizen, M., van der Meer, T., & Scheepers, P. (2009). Ethnic diversity and social capital in Europe: Tests of Putnam’s thesis in European countries. Scandinavian Political Studies, 32(2), 121–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Geys, B. (2012). Association membership and generalized trust: Are connections between associations losing their value? Journal of Civil Society, 8(1), 1–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Gheorghiu, M. A., Vignoles, V. L., & Smith, P. B. (2009). Beyond the United States and Japan: Testing Yamagishi’s emancipation theory of trust across 31 nations. Social Psychology Quarterly, 72(4), 365–383.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Glanville, J. L., Andersson, M. A., & Paxton, P. (2013). Do social connections create trust? An examination using new longitudinal data. Social Forces, 92(2), 545–562.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Glanville, J. L., & Paxton, P. (2007). How do we learn to trust? A confirmatory tetrad analysis of the sources of generalized trust. Social Psychology Quarterly, 70(3), 230–242.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Hamamura, T. (2012). Social class predicts generalized trust but only in wealthy societies. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 43(3), 498–509.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Helliwell, J. F., & Putnam, R. D. (2004). The social context of well-being. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1435–1446.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Helliwell, J., & Putnam, R. (2007). Education and social capital. Eastern Economic Journal, 33(1), 1–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Hofstede, G. H., & Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Hooghe, M., Marien, S., & de Vroome, T. (2012). The cognitive basis of trust. The relation between education, cognitive ability, and generalized and political trust. Intelligence, 40(6), 604–613.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Hooghe, M., & Vanhoutte, B. (2011). Subjective well-being and social capital in Belgian communities. The impact of community characteristics on subjective well-being indicators in Belgium. Social Indicators Research, 100(1), 17–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Howard, M. M., & Gilbert, L. (2008). A cross-national comparison of the internal effects of participation in voluntary organizations. Political Studies, 56(1), 12–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, cultural change, and democracy: The human development sequence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Jaccard, J., & Turissi, R. (2003). Interaction effects in multiple regression (Vol. 72). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Klein, C. (2013). Social capital or social cohesion: What matters for subjective well-being? Social Indicators Research, 110(3), 891–911.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Klein, K. J., & Kozlowski, S. W. J. (Eds.). (2000). Multilevel theory, research, and methods in organizations: Foundations, extensions, and new directions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Knack, S., & Keefer, P. (1997). Does social capital have an economic payoff? A cross-country investigation. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112, 1251–1288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Kuroki, M. (2011). Does social trust increase individual happiness in Japan? Japanese Economic Review, 62(4), 444–459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Leung, A., Kier, C., Fung, T., Fung, L., & Sproule, R. (2011). Searching for happiness: The importance of social capital. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(3), 443–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Li, Y. (2005). Social capital and social trust in Britain. European Sociological Review, 21(2), 109–123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Lolle, H., & Torpe, L. (2011). Growing ethnic diversity and social trust in European societies. Comparative European Politics, 9(2), 191–216.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Miller, A. S., & Mitamura, T. (2003). Are surveys on trust trustworthy? Social Psychology Quarterly, 66(1), 66–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Nannestad, P. (2008). What have we learned about generalized trust, if anything? Annual Review of Political Science, 11(1), 413–436.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Newton, K., & Zmerli, S. (2011). Three forms of trust and their association. European Political Science Review, 3(02), 169–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Oskarsson, S., Dawes, C., Johannesson, M., & Magnusson, P. K. E. (2012). The genetic origins of the relationship between psychological traits and social trust. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 15(01), 21–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Park, C. U., & Subramanian, S. V. (2012). Voluntary association membership and social cleavages: A micro–macro link in generalized trust. Social Forces, 90(4), 1183–1205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Paxton, P. (2007). Association memberships and generalized trust: A multilevel model across 31 countries. Social Forces, 86(1), 47–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Puntscher, S., Hauser, C., Walde, J., & Tappeiner, G. (2014). The impact of social capital on subjective well-being: A regional perspective. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi:10.1007/s10902-014-9555-y.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Putnam, R. D. (2001). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Rahn, W. M., & Transue, J. E. (1998). Social trust and value change: The decline of social capital in American youth, 1976–1995. Political Psychology, 19(3), 545–565.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Rahn, W. M., Yoon, K. S., Garet, M., Lipson, S., & Loflin, K. (2009). Geographies of trust. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(12), 1646–1663.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Realo, A., Allik, J., & Greenfield, B. (2008). Radius of trust: Social capital in relation to familism and institutional collectivism. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 39(4), 447–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Robbins, B. G. (2011). Neither government nor community alone: A test of state-centered models of generalized trust. Rationality and Society, 23(3), 304–346.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Robbins, B. G. (2012). Institutional quality and generalized trust: A nonrecursive causal model. Social Indicators Research, 107(2), 235–258.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Rodríguez-Pose, A., & von Berlepsch, V. (2014). Social capital and individual happiness in Europe. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(2), 357–386.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Rothstein, B., & Stolle, D. (2008). The state and social capital: An institutional theory of generalized trust. Comparative Politics, 40, 441–459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Sarracino, F. (2013). Determinants of subjective well-being in high and low income countries: Do happiness equations differ across countries? The Journal of Socio-Economics, 42, 51–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Schwartz, S. H. (2010). Basic values: How they motivate and inhibit prosocial behavior. In M. Mikulincer & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Washington: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Sonderskov, K. M. (2011). Does generalized social trust lead to associational membership? Unravelling a bowl of well-tossed spaghetti. European Sociological Review, 27(4), 419–434.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Soroka, S., Helliwell, J., & Johnston, R. (2007). Measuring and modelling interpersonal trust. In S. Diversity (Ed.), Capital and the welfare state. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Stolle, D. (2002). Trusting strangers—The concept of generalized trust in perspective. Austrian Journal of Political Science, 31, 397–412.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Sturgis, P., Read, S., & Allum, N. (2010). Does intelligence foster generalized trust? An empirical test using the UK birth cohort studies. Intelligence, 38(1), 45–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Sturgis, P., & Smith, P. (2010). Assessing the validity of generalized trust questions: What kind of trust are we measuring? International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 22(1), 74–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Sulemana, I. (2015). An empirical investigation of the relationship between social capital and subjective well-being in Ghana. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(5), 1299–1321.

  74. Teorell, J., Samanni, M., Holmberg, S., & Rothstein, B. (2011). The quality of government dataset, version 6. University of Gothenburg: The Quality of Government Institute.

  75. Tokuda, Y., Fujii, S., & Inoguchi, T. (2010). Individual and country-level effects of social trust on happiness: The Asia Barometer survey. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40(10), 2574–2593.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. Torpe, L., & Lolle, H. (2011). Identifying social trust in cross-country analysis: Do we really measure the same? Social Indicators Research, 103(3), 481–500.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. Uslaner, E. M. (2002). The moral foundations of trust. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Uslaner, E. M. (2013). Trust and corruption revisited: How and why trust and corruption shape each other. Quality & Quantity, 47(6), 3603–3608.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. Van der Veld, W., & Saris, W. (2012). Causes of generalized social trust. In Cross-cultural analysis: Methods and applications. Routledge.

  80. van Hoorn, A. (2014). Trust radius versus trust level: Radius of trust as a distinct trust construct. American Sociological Review, 79(6), 1256–1259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  81. Van Ingen, E., & Bekkers, R. (2015). Generalized trust through civic engagement? Evidence from five national panel studies. Political Psychology, 36(3), 277–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. Van Oorschot, W., Arts, W., & Gelissen, J. (2006). Social capital in Europe: Measurement and social and regional distribution of a multifaceted phenomenon. Acta Sociologica, 49(2), 149–167.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  83. Welch, M. R., Rivera, R. E., Conway, B. P., Yonkoski, J., Lupton, P. M., & Giancola, R. (2005). Determinants and consequences of social trust. Sociological Inquiry, 75(4), 453–473.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  84. Welzel, C. (2013). Freedom rising: Human empowerment and the contemporary quest for emancipation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  85. Welzel, C., & Delhey, J. (2015). Generalizing trust: The benign force of emancipation. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 46, 1–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  86. Welzel, C., Inglehart, R., & Deutsch, F. (2005). Social capital, voluntary associations and collective action: Which aspects of social capital have the greatest “civic” payoff? Journal of Civil Society, 1(2), 121–146.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  87. Whiteley, P. F. (2000). Economic growth and social capital. Political Studies, 48(3), 443–466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  88. Wollebaek, D., Lundåsen, S. W., & Trägårdh, L. (2012). Three forms of interpersonal trust: Evidence from Swedish municipalities: Three forms of interpersonal trust. Scandinavian Political Studies, 35(4), 319–346.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  89. Wollebæk, D., & Selle, P. (2007). Origins of social capital: Socialization and institutionalization approaches compared. Journal of Civil Society, 3(1), 1–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  90. WORLD VALUES SURVEY 1981–2014 LONGITUDINAL AGGREGATE v.20150418. World Values Survey Association (www.worldvaluessurvey.org). Aggregate File Producer: JDSystems, Madrid SPAIN. Accessed 2 February 2015.

  91. Yamagishi, T. (2011). Trust: The evolutionary game of mind and society. Berlin: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  92. Yamaoka, K. (2008). Social capital and health and well-being in East Asia: A population-based study. Social Science & Medicine (1982), 66(4), 885–899.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  93. Yip, W., Subramanian, S. V., Mitchell, A. D., Lee, D. T. S., Wang, J., & Kawachi, I. (2007). Does social capital enhance health and well-being? Evidence from rural China. Social Science & Medicine (1982), 64(1), 35–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  94. Zak, P. J., & Knack, S. (2001). Trust and growth. The Economic Journal, 111(470), 295–321.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The study has been funded by the Russian Academic Excellence Project ‘5-100’.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anna Almakaeva.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

Table 8 Individual-level variables
Table 9 Operationalization of emancipative values. Source Welzel (2013)
Table 10 Descriptive statistics
Table 11 Linear multilevel regression with strangers as a dependent variable and variables from the success and well-being theory (conditional effects for different levels of human empowerment)
Table 12 Linear multilevel regression with strangers as a dependent variable and variables from the success and well−being theory excluding financial satisfaction (conditional effects for different levels of human empowerment)
Table 13 Linear multilevel regression with trust in strangers as a dependent variable and significant variables from all theories including income in deciles (conditional effects for different levels of human empowerment)
Table 14 Linear multilevel regression with trust in strangers as a dependent variable and variables from all theories (conditional effects for different levels of human empowerment)
Table 15 Linear multilevel regression with trust in strangers as a dependent variable and significant variables from all theories (estimation for overall membership in associations)
Table 16 Linear multilevel regression with trust in strangers as a dependent variable and significant variables from all theories (estimation for confidence in justice institutions)
Table 17 Linear multilevel regression with trust in strangers as a dependent variable and significant variables from all theories (estimation for confidence in political institutions)
Table 18 Linear multilevel regression with out-group trust index as a dependent variable and significant variables from all theories (conditional effects for different levels of human empowerment)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Almakaeva, A., Welzel, C. & Ponarin, E. Human Empowerment and Trust in Strangers: The Multilevel Evidence. Soc Indic Res 139, 923–962 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-017-1724-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Generalized trust
  • Trust radius
  • Trust theories
  • Human empowerment
  • Multilevel modeling
  • Moderation effect