Wealthy countries are the most trusting: Using the World Values Survey, I plan to develop a "personality" profile of regions around the world, much as I have been doing with American ethnic groups. As a first step, let's look at a country's level of cynicism. People all around the world were asked if most people try to take advantage of you: others were asked if it's true that you can't be too careful with people. Here are the results, from most to least cynical:
Percent saying most people try to take advantage of you
South Africa 67.4
Puerto Rico 62.2
Saudi Arabia 51.3
Percent saying you can't be too careful with people
Puerto Rico 93.9
El Salvador 85.4
South Africa 81.8
East Germany 75.1
Dominican Republic 73.4
Bosnia and Herzegovina 71.7
Czech Republic 71.5
Great Britain 69.0
West Germany 58.2
New Zealand 50.8
I see a few patterns here: Developed countries are the most trusting. China, however, is an example of a trusting, less developed nation. Other Asian countries also tend to be less cynical (the Philippines being a strong exception). As a group, Latin American countries are cynical, which contradicts my image of the gregarious Hispanic. Muslim, Eastern European, and Sub-Saharan African countries are on the cynical side (Iraq and Iran are important exceptions).
The explanation of these patterns is not clear, but attitudes may in some degree reflect experience. For example, a country like Sweden is an orderly, honest society, so living there inspires faith in human nature. A history of government corruption might be part of the story. Steve Sailer argues that high rates of cousin marriage create tightly-knit clans who are suspicious of each other, which might explain some of the Muslim cases. Do you see a connection between ethnic diversity and mistrust? I'm not sure. America seems to be on the less trustful end of wealthy countries. I plan to build a data set, so I can calculate correlations between variables like these.
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