Monday, June 28, 2010

Falling level of trust

General Social survey respondents have been asked the following question each survey year since 1972: "Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can't be too careful in life?"

The graph shows that trust among Americans has been slipping for four decades (sample size = 34,790). The red section shows the percent who say that people can be trusted: this has dropped from around 50 percent in the early 70s to less than 40 percent currently. The trend has paralleled the post-1965 ethnic diversification of the country.

Falling trust is not a good sign since a flourishing society depends on a certain amount of confidence that contracts can be made and will be honored.

I'm putting together a cross-national data set and plan to identify the social correlates of ethnic diversity. I predict the results will not be pretty.


agnostic said...

There's no real trend from the early '70s through the late '80s. It bounces up and down from one survey to the next. Perhaps moves down a bit in the late '80s, but the real drop that starts a pretty steady downturn happens between the 1991 and '93 surveys.

I remember seeing hitchhikers growing up in the '80s, and I could play wherever and whenever I wanted, unless it was long after dark. It was only during the '90s that this gave way to paranoia about your neighbors and strangers.

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