Research Paper

Trust(ing) in Europe? How increased social capital can contribute to economic development

This report surveys recent works in political economy showing that trust—and civic capital more generally—matter for various aspects of economic well-being and presents new evidence from European countries showing that trust has deteriorated considerably in those European countries that have been affected the most by the ongoing economic downturn. We also discuss policy recommendations. The key message is that because trust and social capital matter crucially for economic and institutional development, countries must both monitor developments closely and pursue policies that cultivate civic social capital. Given strong inertia, changing people’s beliefs and promoting civic engagement will not occur overnight. Targeted policies can increase civicness and promote social capital considerably. First, promoting education seems crucial as, a higher level of education cultivates social capital. Second, countries where primary and secondary education are based on lecturing and memorising, should alter the curriculum towards more group activities, team projects, and critical thinking based on a dialectic method. Third, policymakers should continue promoting the outward orientation of the economy and the removal of administrative barriers to entry that fuel corruption and impede competition.

Published on 

June 2013

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