Religiosity and trust: a causal cross country approach
The aim and focus of this paper is to examine the origins of social trust and to add a theoretical contribution to the existing discussion regarding this topic. The paper will more precisely focus on the causes of social trust and on one factor in particular, how religiosity could explain differences in levels of social trust between countries. Earlier research has focused on matters such as religious affiliation and religious participation as explanatory factors of generalized trust. This paper tries to show that cross-country differences in levels of generalized trust might not depend so much on religious affiliation or participation but rather on the degree of religiosity in a given country. The first stage of the analysis consists of statistically examining whether a negative relationship can be detected between religiosity and generalized trust, with the results indeed showing a negative correlation between religiosity and levels of generalized trust. A second stage serves to explain why there might be a negative relationship between religiosity and generalized trust. Here variables measuring gender equality, tolerance of homosexuality and individual autonomy confirms a negative relation to religiosity whilst a positive one to generalized trust. The final stage of the analysis aims at verifying whether a causal relationship between religiosity and generalized trust would stand the test when confronted with alternative explanations to differences in levels of generalized trust. The multiple regression analyses confirms that religiosity has an independent and significant effect on differences in levels of generalized trust even when controlling for competing variables.