Does Generalized (Dis)trust Travel? Examining the Impact of Cultural Heritage and Destination Country Environment on Trust of Immigrants

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At least two contrasting perspectives on the roots of generalized trust exist: The cultural perspective emphasizing how trust is a stable trait passed on from one generation to the next through parental socialization, and the experiential perspective, which stresses that trust is subject to change with what we experience in the environment in which we live. Analyzing trust of immigrants is an effective way to contrast the two perspectives, as the cultural perspective predicts that immigrants' level of trust will continue to reflect the level of trust of their home country, whereas the experiential perspective predicts that trust of immigrants will change according to the environment of the destination country. This article examines how first-generation immigrants from three low-trust countries of origin (Turkey, Poland, and Italy) are affected by migrating to high-trust countries in Northern Europe, which hold qualities conducive to trust. In contrast to earlier studies examining trust of immigrants, I build on one data set containing data on both migrants and nonmigrants from the same country of origin as well as on a wide range of relevant covariates of trust. Using the method of matching, the results of the analysis lend most support to the experiential perspective on trust as the destination-country context has a massive impact on trust of immigrants, who display significantly higher levels of trust than comparable respondents in their country of origin. The results are robust to limiting the destination-country context to only one country (Germany) and comparing migrants and nonmigrants responding in the same language.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)495-511
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2012

ID: 37793757