Sunday, July 06, 2008

Are Jews the most distrustful of all American ethnic groups? After reading Steve Sailer's insightful piece tonight contrasting the Cuban- and Jewish-American lobbies, I wondered if Jews as a group are more suspicious of people, and perhaps lack of trust comes from a history of negative relations with others. As an example, Ashley Montagu once said, if you meet a gentile, it's a good operating hypothesis that he is an anti-Semite.

The General Social Survey asked 26,201 Americans if people can be trusted. I list the percent who said they cannot be trusted by ethnic group:

Percent who say that people cannot be trusted

Puerto Ricans 79.2
Blacks 79.0
Other Spanish 73.1
Mexican 70.7
Filipino 70.4
Amerindian 69.9
West Indian 69.5
Spanish 63.3
Asian Indian 59.6
Portuguese 58.5
Italian 57.0
Arab 56.9

All Americans 55.9

French Canadian 55.0
Dutch 54.7
Lithuanian 54.3
Greek 54.1
Hungarian 52.6
German 52.2
Polish 51.9
Irish 50.7
French 50.5
Austrian 49.4
Czechs 49.0
Belgian 48.8
Japanese 48.7
Chinese 47.8
Scottish 47.6
Russian 47.3
Romanian 47.2
Jewish 46.9
English/ Welsh 44.6
Danes 43.4
Swiss 41.1
Finns 40.7
Norwegian 39.6

Jews are not distrustful--just the opposite. They are at the bottom of the list, along with those whose ancestors are from northern Europe.

At the top of the list, there are a number of poor and non-white minority groups. The only nonwhites in the bottom half are Japanese and Chinese American--wealthy minority groups like American Jews.

People from southern Europe tend to be distrsutful, but the really striking pattern in my mind is the high scores of all the Hispanic groups. Francis Fukuyama has argued that social trust is necessary for economic prosperity, and you can see that the high-trust groups are successful. The suspiciousness of Hispanics may prevent them from developing the kind of cooperativeness needed for upwardly mobility. This is one more fact that leads one to conclude that mass immigration from the South means more long-term poverty for America.


  1. I think it has more to do with the criminality level of each group. Look who's on the bottom below the Jews--the famously decent and un-corrupt Scandinavians. Look who's on top.

    Ashley Montagu wrote a while ago; America is a lot less anti-Semitic than it used to be.

  2. I'm surprised at the relatively high distrust level of Asian Indians, as they're a generally successful group in the United States. Could a small sample size be a factor?

  3. Peter: India is very corrupt. Tends to lead to lots of distrust.

    In the case of Indians, it might change with the # of generations in the US.

  4. This seems to contradict your post from a week ago suggesting that high intelligence and mistrust are correlated.

  5. AE: Yeah, I used a different indicator of distrust in the earlier post ("Are you distrustful?" instead of "Can people be trusted?") and when asked to characterize themselves, smart people say their quite distrustful. Weird, I know. If asked if people can be trusted--with a simple yes or no--smart people tend to say yes.

  6. In “Jews and American Politics” by Stephen D. Isaacs (Doubleday 1974), the author reports the findings of a survey
    conducted by the National Opinion Research Center for Dr. Melvin Kohn of the National Institute of Mental Health. The survey attempted to assess various American ethnic groups’ comparable levels of distrust. The scale went from Plus 4 — most trusting — to Minus 4 — least trusting:


    +2.506 Irish Catholic
    +1.583 Scandinavian Protestant
    +1.481 Slavic Catholic
    +0.767 German Protestant
    +0.757 German Catholic
    +0.502 Italian Catholic
    +0.242 White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant
    -3.106 Jewish

    Has that much really changed in 35 years that Jews have gone from far and away the least trusting group to among the most trusting? I think that it suggests that the survey you are relying on isn't very useful.

    Certainly Jewish political behavior still exhibits a high degree of paranoia.


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