Determinants of Social Trust Among Adolescents

Project: Research

Project Details


Social trust – the belief that most people can be trusted – is an immensely valuable part of social capital. However, there is a surprising lack of research concerning the factors that generate social trust. While the minimum age of most relevant survey studies is 18 years, recent research finds that social trust rarely ever changes among adults. This PhD project will thus focus on adolescents’ social trust. Previous research suggests that it is particularly confidence in public institutions that makes people trust in strangers. This project will test this assumption employing a quantitative, comparative, and longitudinal approach. Drawing on repeated measures from a Swedish regional panel study, the PhD student will, firstly, study whether changes in institutional trust are associated with changes in social trust in a regional sample of pupils aged 13-18. Using CILS4EU data and exploiting the ‘natural experiment’ of children whose parents immigrated from low-trust countries to England, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, the project will, secondly, examine whether 16-year old second-generation immigrants with similar parental and cultural backgrounds differ in terms of social trust, and if yes, whether those differences can be explained by variations in the institutional quality of their current destination. Using two-wave panel data from the German CILS4EU study, the PhD project will, thirdly, analyse whether or not trust levels of those with vs. those without migration background converge over time. Using longitudinal data from the German National Education Panel study, the project will, fourth and finally, follow a cohort of 16-17 year-olds, testing whether or not university education brings about an increase in social trust. The results from this project will deepen scholars' and policy-makers' understanding about the experiences and perceptions that make and break social capital.

This PhD project is co-funded by the Crafoord Foundation (20190862)
Effective start/end date2019/10/012023/09/30