NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

How Durable are Social Norms? Immigrant Trust and Generosity in 132 Countries

John F. Helliwell, Shun Wang, Jinwen Xu

NBER Working Paper No. 19855
Issued in January 2014
NBER Program(s):   DEV   PE   POL

This paper estimates the global prevalence of social trust and generosity among immigrants. We combine individual and national level data from immigrants and native-born respondents in more than 130 countries, using seven waves of the Gallup World Poll (2005-2012). The results show that the effect of source country social trust is about one-third as large as that from trust levels in the destination countries where the migrant now lives. Migrants from low-trust environments are especially affected by the low trust in their country of origin even after migration, while migrants from high-trust environments are less likely to import the high trust of their country of origin to their current country of residence. We also show that, holding constant the effects of imported trust, immigrants and the native-born have similar levels of social trust. We find similar, but smaller, footprint effects for generosity. To help confirm that the footprint effects for social norms represent more than just that it takes time to learn about new surroundings, we undertake similar tests for trust in national institutions, where we would not expect to see footprint effects. In contrast to our social trust and generosity results, and consistent with our expectations, we find no footprint effects for opinions about domestic institutions in the new country.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19855

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