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Trust and Ethnic Fractionalization: The Importance of Religion as a Cross-Cutting Dimension

Authors

  • Henning Finseraas,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute for Social Research (ISF), Oslo, Norway
    • Norwegian Social Research (NOVA), Oslo, Norway
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    • We would like to thank Joel Selway, Jon Ivar Elstad, Andreas Kotsadam, Staffan Kumlin, and Axel West Pedersen for useful comments, and Chirstian Bjørnskov for sharing his cross-national data on average trust levels. The research reported in this paper was supported by a grant from the Research Council of Norway (project Trygd i kontekst. Rettferdighet, Effektivitet, Fordeling (TREfF) 199836/S20), which is gratefully acknowledged.
  • Niklas Jakobsson

    Corresponding author
    • Norwegian Social Research (NOVA), Oslo, Norway
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    • We would like to thank Joel Selway, Jon Ivar Elstad, Andreas Kotsadam, Staffan Kumlin, and Axel West Pedersen for useful comments, and Chirstian Bjørnskov for sharing his cross-national data on average trust levels. The research reported in this paper was supported by a grant from the Research Council of Norway (project Trygd i kontekst. Rettferdighet, Effektivitet, Fordeling (TREfF) 199836/S20), which is gratefully acknowledged.

Summary

The existing literature on diversity and trust has focused on a unidimensional understanding of diversity. We argue that a unidimensional approach is theoretically and empirically problematic and use a recently developed multidimensional measure of social structure to investigate which aspects of diversity are associated with generalized trust. We run cross-country regressions with up to 115 countries to explore the importance of fractionalization for average trust levels 1981–2008. Using several different measures of ethnic fractionalization, we do not find a general and robust relationship between ethnic fractionalization and trust. In line with expectations, however, we find a negative and significant association between ethnic fractionalization and trust for low levels of ethno-religious cross-cuttingness and cross-fractionalization, illustrating the importance of multidimensionality.

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