« Freakonomics Radio

266. Trust Me (Rebroadcast)

2017-12-27 | 🔗
Societies where people trust one another are healthier and wealthier. In the U.S. (and the U.K. and elsewhere), social trust has been falling for decades — in part because our populations are more diverse. What can we do to fix it?
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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If you'd like to listen to free economic radio without ads the place to do that is sticker premium five dollars a month and you can get a free month trial by going to stick your premium dot com and use a promo code freak. You also get access to all our bonus. Episodes and you'll be supporting our show to that sticker premium, dot, com, promo code, freak banks, either Stephen donor. Welcome to our final episode of the year is called trust me and it's about how to build more social trust. We first put this out just after last year's, rather dramatic presidential election, two thousand seven team has been an amazing you for economics. We would like to thank you for that. You, are the reason we make the show and you are
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for economics, dot, com, slash, donate or text. The word freak to seven zero one zero one. Thank you so much. I think you agree that the two thousand! Sixteen? U S, presidential election was pretty wonderful. According to statisticians, it set all time highs and civil discourse in social unity How are we so fortunate? Because America, as we all know and appreciate, is a place where people
really trust one another. Now I dont think most people can be trusted because I think everybody's always looking for an angle. Generally speaking Joe, I think most people can be just serve. Society seems to have been changing and separating and many many people more than Before- think Arap just for themselves. O apparently goes wrong. Apparently we don't trust one another. So much with, oh, apparently, we didn't set all time highs and social unity during this election. Sorry, my mistake, I guess I was thinking of failure, Australia is the one which looks like it's fucking the trend and moving towards higher social trust in the last twenty thirty years or maybe I was thinking of the Netherlands then close to seventy percent and levels of those you think others can be trusted
in America. Meanwhile, if we're being honest, we're not much on trust these days, just think of the twenty sixteen presidential election we miss trusted the candidates and their parties. We mistrust of the police and the FBI. Miss trusted the poles and some people even distrusted the election but wait, maybe there's a bright side. Maybe it's healthy for society to be untrussing to be sceptical. Maybe it keeps us on our toes always looking for ways to improve what that IRAN about that to professor, we would be much better off if we were living in a more trustworthy society. Trustworthiness, in short, is a really big deal then today on for economics, radio, simple mission to determine why social trust in such a big deal and how to get more of it would you like to know how to do that I think
that might be achieved. I'm here from W and Y, see studios. This is freakin comics radio, the that explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host Stephen Dogma, Social trust, is what exactly is just one of those things is sort of like the dark matter of the economy and society matters very greatly, and yet we don't seem to focus on a very much that is one of my favorite academic. Slash policy wants in the world David Help and on the head of the Uk Behavioral Insight team of known as the non GM it. The nudge unit applies the findings of behavioral science. To do things like increase tax payments, decrease medical
earth and conserve energy. It also looks into broader ideas, like social trust, as help remove saying such atrocities. It extraordinarily interesting variable and doesn't get anywhere near the attention it deserves, but the basic I trying to some what is it the kind of the fabric of society that makes economies Do you just people get along in general? Is clay so critical for a whole range of outcomes, outcomes? Lake economic growth is a more powerful predictor of future national growth rates than, for example, levels of human capital or skills in the population outcomes like individual health. Basically, I think someone have a feeling. Other people can be trusted or people you can rely on in your life is worth a great deal. It's roughly the same positive effect as giving up smoke You know, and smoking is really really badly, so no social isolation, exam these incredibly bad for your health. So can people like halprin lively measure, the level of social trust in a given place. Yes, you can do
a number of ways. You can ask people how many name they got their father foxes or in their phones, which give you some sense of their social networks? You can also measure most Lee with asking a question on social chasse. Do you think other people can be trusted since she s a question we ve been asking if that for decades- and there is very big national differences in this country range from many countries like Brazil, where less than ten percent of people would say most others can be trusted to country. like Norway, where more than seventy percent of people would say most others can be trusted countries like the? U S and the UK, I sort of half way between two billion arranged thirty to forty percent of people say This can be trusted. Places with a lot of social trust also have a lot of words as social capital to most people are familiar with physical capital and financial capital. Of course, can you compare so for capital to those in any meaningful way. The answer is yes, but you can have a good day you can literally work out how much more do people tend to earn if they,
have more names in their networks in I know more people, or they trust more in general. You can ask it For the individual level- and you can also ask it really important near the community or even national level, so twenty cent an advantage in terms of real economic growth or your health outcomes to live in a country or a place where people say most others can be trusted, and the answer is, it turns out some really quite large numbers. Indeed, if social trust in social capital are so important, when we talk about it all the time released during political campaigns, sites and issue which got long routes, but it does mean that governments had done very much about it until very recently, I should say I myself a book a number. He is gone- social capital specifically working with at the time with Bob Putnam at Harvard My name is Bob Putnam. I teach public policy at Harvard University, Putnam also the author of the landmark book bowling alone. Potion two thousand. We started thinking about social capital decades earlier it began with a question about italian politics
some parts of ITALY are way more efficient than any state in America and Parts of ITALY are way more corrupt than any place in Amerika, and the question is why why are some places better governed than others? The answer Putnam concluded didn't do it. You cannot make development or education level or politics. It was the degree to which there was a dense civic network in a community if there was a dense civic network. So the people in those places behalf with respect to one another in a trustworthy way. Their governments work better and I dubbed that concept. Social capital, meaning the court idea of social capital is so simple that I'm almost embarrassed to say it. It is that social networks have value social networks have
first of all to the people were in the networks, for example, is a huge amount of work on how social networks help us find jobs. Social networks also exert other more indirect leverage. They have effects on bystanders and not just the facts on the people in the communities that have high levels of social capital benefit in many ways their kids do better in school. They have lower crime rates. They have other things be, who higher economic growth rates. Many many benefits, both personally and collectively. Having made these observations about the power of social capital in ITALY, Putnam returned to the U S and I was worried just as a citizen, not as a scholar. I was worried that ever since I personally began to vote, which was way back in nineteen. Sixty America seem to be going to hold a hand basket, but I said to myself: I wonder whether social capital might have something to do with this collapse of american civilization, so he began looking for measures of connectivity.
American civic life, membership in parent teacher organizations, for instance, as what fraction of all parents in any given year belong to the pity, and I discovered to my shock that actually peachy membership has been declining he looked at membership numbers among rotary clubs, monk scout troops among bowling leagues, participation was falling in all these groups. We were becoming more more isolated or, as a friend suggested, we once you mean were bowling.
Oh, that's, really. Enormous effects David Halprin again from the british government's behavioral insight steam as obvious as the benefits of social capital might seem. We almost haughty seem to notice it is that says incredibly consequential, and we see it in lots of our policy that we touch on. So you rate this about low trust. Low trust implies a society where you have to keep an eye over. Your shoulder were deals need lawyers instead of handshakes. We you don't see the point of paying your tax or recycling your rubbish, since you doubt your name will do so and where you employ your cousin or your brother in law to work, for you read the stranger who would probably be much better the job, so that has all kinds of business and ultimately economic implications. However, when you talk about high trust being good for us honour and on a personal level with its health,
or individual income, did the two necessarily go in hand. In other words, can we have a society that has a business climate where there isn't a lot of trust, and therefore you do need all those lawyers incident handshakes, but where you have good social trust among neighbours, family friends, communities, Taiwan, or are they really the same thing that you're talking about while there is a key distinction, and both Putnam up is often made. This too between was Sunday school, bonding social capital and bridging social capital. Social capital is about social networks, but not all social networks, identical in one important distinction is between ties that link us to other people like us. That's called bonding social capital warnings.
to capital, often refer to your closeness to your friends, your relatives, those immediately around you, it's particularly important. It turns out for things such as health outcomes, because, empirically, if you got sick, the people were likely to bring you chicken soup or likely to represent your binding social capital, so bonding social capitals plainly important, but its primarily about our ties to people were close with when it comes to how our broader society gets along. That's where bridging social capital comes in. Do you trust not just your immediate neighbour but those people, community, more generally, or indeed even Russia strangers who meet in everyday life in your country or society? So my ties, my friendship to people of different religions,
if a razor, different economic class or different occupation or different age, thus bridging social capital that tends to be really important, especially in a modern, diverse democracy like ours, and therefore, what worries me most about trends in America is the decline in bridging social capital is something we saw plenteous during the presidential election, so much distrust among so many separate constituencies. A constant splintering, resplendent, instead of drawing together that America likes to known for so coming up on economic radio? We look at spare me designed to measure trust along racial and ethnic lines. News not good,
a lot of cheating was across racial and ethnic lines, but there is some good news. For instance, people go to university end up trusting much more than those who died and when we went out to the streets of New York and asked people to stand survey question generally speaking, would you say most people can be trusted with plenty of offenders so General Lee, there's more good people in the world than there are bad people. So that leads me to believe that you can just people would say they could. I think that's maybe like a naive assumption on my mind, like to believe there is good memory. One I've had great experience as a stranger. Is I think that in the majority of cases, people are good I've? I trust me boy that's coming up, but first a quick reminder that you can do something amazing that will deliver good stuff for many other people right now. This is the time
here, I would remind you that for economics radios made possible in no small part by the dollar's given by our listeners. That means you. You can help bring us more for economics radio in the new year and when you do it by December thirty. First, it will deliver a charitable deduction on your next tax return become a member today with your donation. Get your two thousand seventeen tax deduction before it's too just go to for economics, dot, com, slash, donate or text. The word freak to seven zero, one, zero and you can give in just a few seconds. Thank you so much so what have we done?
That's far, we learned that Social trust seems to be quite powerful and desirable, but can you get more of it? You can't just magically turn up the social trust and given place. He can't force everyone to join the PTA or the church group or whatever so rather than solving for x, where x, is how to increase social trust, but first solve for Y, where Y is when
trust and social capital are low. Why are they low? The short version is that, in the short run, increases in diversity seem to be correlated with decreases in social capital at Bob Putnam again, he and others have observed over and over that diversity, racial, ethnic, religious and so on, make trust more elusive. Consider some research done by the Harvard economists at Glaser Trust is everywhere in economic transactions, so we wanted to contribute to this literature and one of them, things that seemed very important ass was measuring. Trust was measuring social capital rather than relying solely on survey. Data Glaser and his colleagues set up an experiment, not that experiments are perfect either. So we took a bunch of Harvard undergraduates cause. What could possibly more representative them ass? They tried to measure trust in a variety of ways, including a game where
Students were paired with each other, with one sending money to the other without being sure whether they get the money back. It's basically meant mimic the idea of an invest. Getting money to affirm and affirm, then chooses what am I to cheat the investor or not, some students treated their partners fairly. Others, however, essentially cheated keeping most or all the money for themselves. When did that happen? It happened when two players: didn't look like a lot of the shooting was across racial netteke lies, and this primarily white on Asian, meaning the whites were cheating the Asians and I think There are lots of cases in the world in which we ve seen racial fractional zation be related to less than perfectly functioning social relations. Do you think that more ethnically homogenous societies
one argument behind scandinavian, economic and social success is that they tend to produce better social outcomes, and you think there's evidence for that. I do. It is true, for example, that the welfare state are both more generous in ethnically homogeneous places, and it's almost a shortage of that there also more functional that they work. They function better and more ethnically homogeneous bases, its just easier in lots of ways there downsize too. That I mean I haven't livestock omitted great city, but certainly one can argue that small homogeneous places are not necessarily as creative as they might be. So I think there are lots of benefits for being in an ethnically and culturally mixed society, David Halpern again look on speaking to you today from London, one almost diversities in the world and it has a deep vibrancy that follows from that I mean the real choice trust is: can we have our cake and eat it to? What is it that eyes and enables diverse, uninteresting sort of varied population cities. Countries
be able to live together. Well, that's a real challenge every place while including us, We are all going to be more ethnically diverse twenty five years from now, and that's Bob Putnam Diversity, in the long run is a big advantage, but he warns it's not easy to do. Diversity. Diversity brings out the turtle in US
That would mean a more diverse setting. Everybody can oppose in an disconnects from their neighbours, but look if the world is becoming more diverse and if diversity tends to lower social trust and if social trust is so important, should we be looking at ways to handle this problem? I think said: Udo, let's face it, there isn't that much work really doing intervention studies to figure out what strategies I would want to emphasise for moving in a positive direction would be more context in which people can act with one another, a clause, lines of race or economics or gender or age, some classic samples about sports teams. The military and university people go to university and up trusting much more than those who don't particular I go away or residential. Isn't it I use
by income alone, so there's something about the experience of going off as a young person environment way, with lots of other young people from different backgrounds and saw hopefully indifferent ethnicities, you learn the habits of trust because in an environment where you can trust other people, they are trustworthy and you, turn lies habits and you take them with you, the rest of your life. So we tend to know. think of going way to university is being the reason why you're doing is to build social capital, social trust. We think about learning skills and sound, but it may well be that as as Aren't you are even more value in terms of culturing social trust going forward, because you do young university. Can you do and other way so in the UK following Pollio, an American led? The government has ambient a national citizens service and what this means is for every young person since you seventeen year old, increasingly starts over the
not everyone has a moment more and more. Every single year goes and does voluntary experience community service. This deliberately includes a couple of weeks which are residential and deliberately includes mixing with people from order from war. life. Look, it's only limited data in terms of before after data, we see significant impact in terms of high levels of trust between groups and individuals, as was any high levels of life, satisfaction and well being too so it looks like we can do something about it It's also helpful David Helping says simply to look at the countries where social trust has been rising and see what they're up to the Netherlands, for instance, in the most recent data, it looks like it's one of the biggest rises said another Pre, similar levels of social trust in the nineteen eighties, too, and the UK, but whereas we ve now,
down towards sort of thirty. Eight percent then close to seventy percent in levels of those who think others can be trusted. What would you say? It's called. I am one of the characteristics of the Netherlands and, as you know, you have to be careful when you pick of one country is, it is wrestles quite hard with the issues of I'm not just inequality but social differences. They really trying to do a lot relation to making people essentially bill. Cohesion, particular Amsterdam's, a very famous area voice longing. strangely multicultural city. It's had issues, over time, but they really in succession governments, have tried to quite actively make groups? get along with each other and quite an active way, so that may occur itself written the Netherlands has quite deep culture of strong. And so the law being trustworthy in that country we'll be honoured and saw this will help to pirates economic success in
previous century, so it does have that tradition also to draw on and what role does technology play in social capital, especially the bridging social capital? That people like how burn and Putnam say so important. In his book bowling alone, Putnam found that social capital was relative, low in the? U S: in the early nineteen honey, and rose fairly steadily through the nineteen sixties. But that's when the decline began. I looked hard to find explanations and television, I argued, is really bad for sulphur connectivity. For many reasons, more television watching Putnam wrote means less a virtually every form of civic Participation in social involvement is Bob sometimes put it. I think rather elegantly when we are looking forward in terms of time. because you are the UN's Nuttin Cassim briefly spoken and song, would it be in his words and see television? In other words, it will icily
as more and more or to be a fancy telephone and would connect us more and more because technology has both those capabilities. So When I play video games when I was a kid you basically to them, mostly by yourself over the friend when I look at my teenage, supplying videos there actually talking each other all the time. To some extent, it looks like to me. We get the technology that we want, and even this is truly a sort of society level so wanted arguments you can make and, in my view, is to anyway by explaining some of these differences in the trajectories across countries is an angle, saxon countries we ve, often use our wealth to by technology and other experiences. The means we don't have to deal with other people, the inconveniences of having to go. the consumer has to listen to me that a real I can just stay at home, and I just watch what I want and so on and choose it. And even in the level of. If I think about you know my kids versus me growing up moon
when I was growing up, we had one tv and there were five kids in the household in. Are we really had to negotiate pretty hard about? What were you gonna watch? My kids? Don't have to do that. Probably not yours, either era screens in the house? And there are people they can all go off and do their own thing to some extent us using our wealth to escape from having to negotiate with other people. But that is not necessarily the case. Some people some countries seem to use are worth more to find ways of connecting more with other people. and the technology has both these capabilities and we can't just blame it. It's the choices we make king and how we use it and the technology which we are kind of asking and bringing forth it reminds me a bit of. We once looked into the kind of global decline of hitchhiking, for instance, one of them for reasons being that people no longer trusted strangers to not kill each other really is what a boil down to, even though there is apparently very little killing involve, but just the
you have one and yet now goober is a sixty some bill. in dollar company. That's basically, all about using technology to lure a complete stranger into your car, which I guess argues if nothing else the fact that technology can be harnessed v, they much in either direction. Indeed, so I mean, as you say, that she two points and is a brilliant. One behavioral, one, which I think we ve only figure in recent years to bring together these different literatures what hours it relating to Paypal, scientists versus those people setting such a capital. We look like we have certain systematic biases about how we estimate, whether we think other people can be trusted and, in essence, we overestimate quite systematically the prevalence of bad behaviour. We overestimate the number of people are cheating on their taxes. a city of work or do other kinds of bad things, this doesn't seem to be just the media that may reinforce. It seems to be how we wide as human beings, so one
the relevant wisest to do with technologies, as technology can help. You solve some of those issues so you buy something on Ebay or your Thomas. I was go using. You know a Tripadvisor Sassiety or getting some much better information from the experiences of other people, as opposed to your guesstimate, which is often systematically bossed. So it turns out its away. We can sometimes use technology to solve some of these trust issues, not just in relation to specific rocks and shall I, by the same from his person, but potentially more generally, in relation to how do we trust the people, because, ultimately, the social trust question must rest on something. It must be a measure of actual trustworthiness the United States for all the factionalism and bitterness we ve seen during and since the two thousand sixteen elections and, let's be honest for years and years preceding,
We are actually well positioned to regenerate social trust, even as the country becomes more diverse. Why? Because, as Bob Putnam argues, we ve done it before a lot. If we were talking in America in the nineteen twenty four nineteen thirty is the difference between irish people and italian people would have been enormous I've. Some friends so got married in the nineteen sixties. He was from italian background. She was from irish background and when I got married, everybody called a mixed marriage Parents on both sides, also mixed marriages, never work, and now this seems like a joke, because what happened in the ensuing years is that the line the sharp lie between Italians in Irish just disappeared at America is not that they don't know that their from irish or italian backgrounds, but it no longer has that same salience. We ve done
repeatedly over our own history. This car wave of immigration is not the first time that we have had a big waves of immigration causes trivial and then, when you come out the other side we're all better off, I mean look at. It happens that my ancestors came to this country in one thousand. Six hundred and forty, so we've been here for and we were doing just fine and then the Dutch arrived now don't get me started. The doctor was really hard for us to get along with a Dutch, but then eventually we got along the Dutch, and then we forgot they were dutch and then he's there was just us and then women's arrive and they were really difficult. We had a lot of a lot of trouble the Germans and and after a while we gotta just then we sort of them even notice of the Germans were Germans, and then we had we invented at that point. A term called Anglo Saxon to refer to the Dutch and the Germans, us and then we have a lot of trouble when they arrive. I hope you see that there's a small on my face we
done this a lot coming next time. Research shows that being grateful is really good for you. It's amazing how many positive correlative our gratitude. Research also shows that most of us aren't very grateful. It so easy for people to feel put upon to feel resent falls to feel that life is made things harder for them than it has for other people. Why the headwinds of life feel so much stronger than the tale wins and what to do about it? That's next time on frequent
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Transcript generated on 2021-01-22.