« Freakonomics Radio

266. Trust Me

2016-11-10 | 🔗
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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cause. 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 save. Society seems to have been changing and separating and many many people more than before. I think a rat just for themselves help me. I was wrong. Apparently we don't trust one another. So much what's up oh apparent 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, maybe I was thinking of the Netherlands, then close to seven
he percentage levels of those things. This can be trusted Erica me mile, if we're being honest, we're not much interest these days. Just think of this past election, we mistrusted the candidates in their parties, mistrusted, the police and the FBI, mistrusted the poles and some people. Even mistrust of the election result, 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 worthiness. In short, is a really big deal all right then, today on for economic radio, simple mission, to determine why social trust is 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 at your question
from W and Y see studios? This is frequent comics radio broadcasts 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 Halpern on the head of the UK is behavioral inside team of known as the energy in it. The nudge unit applies the findings of behavioral science to do things like increase tax payments, decrease medical there's an conserve energy. It also looks into broader ideas, like social trust. As help remove saying such atrocities are extraordinarily interesting variable and does
anywhere near the attention it deserves, but the basic idea is trying to some. What is it the kind of the fabric of society that makes economies teaches 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, lake, 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 King, you know in smoking is really really badly. So no social isolation 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 number ways you can ask people how many name
they got on their father foxes or in their phones, which give you some sense of their social networks. You can also measure more subtly with asking a question on social trusts D. Think other people can be trusted said she ass a question we ve been asking if that for decades- and there are very big nash- differences in this country's range from many countries like Brazil, where less than ten percent of people would say most others can be trusted to countries like away, 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 others can be trusted places A lot of social trust also have a lot of what is known as social capital to most people are familiar with physical capital and financial capital. Of course, can you compare social capital to them in any meaningful way. The answer is yes, but you can have a go. So 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 charge more people in general. You can ask it both. Individual level, and you can also ask it really important the community or even national level, so too They sent is 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, 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 or a book a number of years gone social capital, specifically working with at the time with Bob Putnam at Harvard. My name is Bob Putnam. I teach public policy
Harvard University. Putnam is also the author of the landmark book, folding alone, which was published in two thousand and three 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 other parts of ITALY are way more corrupt than any place in America, and the question is why why are some places better governed than others? The answer Putnam concluded didn't have to do with
economic 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 behaved with respect to one another in a trustworthy way. Their governments work better and I dubbed that concept. Social capital, meaning the core idea of social capital, is so simple that I'm almost embarrassed to say it is that social networks have value social networks have value 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 network also exert other more indirect leverage. They have effects on bystanders and not just effects on the people in the communities that have high levels of social cap.
Benefit in many ways their kids do better in school. They have lower crime rates, they have other we or higher economic growth rates. Many. Any 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 they began to vote, which was way back in the nineteen. Sixty America seems 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 in american civic life. Membership in parent teacher organizations incidents, but what fraction of all parents in any given year belong to the people, and I discovered to my shock that actually peachy membership has been declining
He looked at membership numbers among rotary clubs among scout troops. Among bowling leagues, participation was falling in all these groups. We were becoming more more isolated or a friend suggested we once even were bowling alone This is really enormous effects. David help and again from the british government's behavioral insights team 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 hands,
Will 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 would probably be much better at the job, so that has all kinds of businesses and ultimately economic implications. However, when you talk about high trust, being good for us honour 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 have good social trust among neighbours, family and friends. Communities
Taiwan, or are they really the same thing that you're talking about? While there is a key distinction, and both Putnam 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 and one important distinction is between ties that link us to other people like us. That's called bonding Social cap
burning social capital often refers 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 view 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, your 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 TAT? he's in America is the decline in bridging social capital is something we saw plenty of during the presidential election, so much distrust among so many separate constituents. This is a constant splintering resplendent. Instead of drawing together that America likes to known for so coming up under economic radio, we look at spare me designed to measure trust along racial and ethnic lines. The news not good. Lot of cheating was across racial and ethnic lines. But there is some good news: for instance, people go to university and up trusting much more
then those who died and when we went out to the streets of New York and asked people the standard survey question. Generally speaking, would you say most people can be trusted with plenty of offenders. So generally, 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 that I think that's maybe like a naive assumption on my mind, like to believe there's garden. Everyone I've had great experience is a stranger. Is I think that in the majority of cases, people are good. I trust people
So what have we learned thus 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 social trust in giving place. He can't force everyone to join that PDA or the church group or whatever, so rather than solving for acts were x, is how to increase social trust. That's first solve for. Why were, why is when Social 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 an 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 the 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
sure whether they get the money back? It's basically meant to mimic the idea of an investor giving money to a firm and the firm 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 the two players didn't look like a lot of the shooting was across racial netteke lies, and this primarily white on Asian mean 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 purple. Functioning social relations. Do you think that more ethnically homogenous societies you know when argument behind
Scandinavian, economic and social success is that they tend to produce better social outcomes and you think there's evidence for them. 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 than a global genius bases, its just easier in lots of ways there downsize too. That I mean I haven't love. Stockholm is it's a 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 Let's have 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 challenge So 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 and can 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 in 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 hand
This problem, I think so, although let's face it, there isn't that much work really doing intervention studies to figure out what strategies I would want to emphasize were moving in a positive direction would be more context in which people can act with one another, a class lines, a race or economics or gender or age. Some classic examples about sports teams, the military and unity city, people go to university and up trusting much more than those who don't particular. I go away or residential. It has little use my income alone says something about the experience of going off as a young person environment where you and lots of other young people from different backgrounds and song, hopefully indifferent ethnicities. You learn the habits of trust cause you in an environment where you can trust other people. They are trustworthy and you turn lies these habits and you take them with you, the rest of your life. So we tend to not think of
wait University is being the reason why you're doing is to build social capital, Social trust, we think of that learning, skills and sound, but it may well be that, as as or 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 championed a national citizens service and what this means is for everyone. Person, since you seventeen year old, increasingly starts over the north, and I am only more and more- every single year goes and does voluntary experience community service. This deliberate includes a couple of weeks which are residential and deliberately includes mixing with people from all different. Of 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
Then he high levels of life, satisfaction and well being to set, looks like we can do something about it. It's also helpful David help and 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 Some data looks like it's one of the biggest rises, so the Netherlands had pre similar levels of social trust in the nineteen eightys to America. And the UK bottle- as we now just down to what sort of thirty eight percent then our close to seventy percent in levels of those who think others can be trusted. What would you say it's caused by Well, I mean one of the characteristics of the Netherlands and, as you know how to be a bit 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
in relation to making people essentially bill. Cohesion. Particular Amsterdam is a very famous area, voice, long been extremely multicultural city. It's how issues over that over time, but they really Succession of governments have try to quite actively make groups get along with each other and quite an active way. So that may of course, itself route in the Netherlands has quite deep culture, a strong sense of the law being trustworthy and that count will be honoured and saw. This will help to pirates economic success in previous century, so it does have that tradition. So to drawn and what role does technology play in social capital, especially the bridging social capital, that people like Halpern and Putnam, say so important in his book bowling alone? Putnam, found that social capital was relatively low in the. U S in the early
nineteen hundreds 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 social 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 technology or the internet in Cassim briefly spoken, and so would it be, in his words, a fancy television In other words, it will isolate us more and more, or would it 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 with a 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 that we need
the technology that we want, and even this is truly a sort of societal level. So one of the arguments you can make, and in my view this is true anyway, by explaining some of these differences in the trajectories across countries is an angle. Taxing countries. We ve often use our wealth to by technology. In other experiences, the means we don't have to deal with other people, the inconveniences of having two. Go to a concert, whereas to listen to me too. I realize 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. You know we really had to negotiate pretty hot 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 weakened. Just blame it. It's the choices. We are making 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 the central reasons being that people no longer trusted strangers to not kill each other really is what a boil down to, even though there was apparent very little killing involved, but just the fear of one and yet now goober is a sixty some billion 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
Ernest very much in either direction. Indeed, so I mean, as you say this I see two points in is a really important behavioral, on which I think we ve only figured out in recent years to bring together these different leeches, what powers 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, will take a secure of work or do other kinds of bad things. This doesn't seem to be just the media, although it may reinforce it, seems to be how we wide as human beings, so one relevant wisest to do a technologies? She technology can help. You solve some of those issues, so when 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 boss so it turns out its away. We can sometimes use technology to solve some of these trust issues, not just in relation to specific products, and shall I, by this,
from this 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 the presidential campaign, and, let's be honest for years and years preceding, is 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 aloft. 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 who got married in the nineteen sixties? He was from italian background. She was from irish background and when I got married, everybody called it a mixed marriage parents on both sides- also mixed marriages, never work, and now this seems like a joke, because. What's happened and the ensuing years is that the line, the sharp lie between Italians in Irish is 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 done this repeatedly over our own history. This current wave of immigration is not the first time that we have had a big waves of immigration that causes terms 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, however, and we were doing just fine and then the Dutch arrived now don't get me started. The Dutch 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 we there's just us another
women's arrive and they were really difficult. We had a lot of a lot of trouble, assimilating the Germans in and then, after a while, we gotta just to do that and we sort of any notice of the Germans were Germans, and then we had we invented at that point. A term called Anglo Saxon to refer to the duchess, the Germans and 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 ve done this a lot coming up next week on for economics, radio I ve ever heard the gamblers fallacy, so the game, this policy is expecting that if you ve had a streak of couple of outcomes in a row that the next hour, he's just much more likely to go the other way, and that's just simply not true. Well, it turns out the gamblers. Are the only people get fooled by the gamblers? Fallacy we look at major baseball umpires. We look at loan officers and we even look at federal court.
Elam judges. What are the umpires think of this? One of the biggest things you have to do when you're an umpires be honest with yourself. That's next time and for economics, radio for economic radio, is produced by W and my c studios and w production. This episode is produced by Gregg results. Give our staff also includes Shelly Louis Christopher Worth Jake, how it merit Jacob Noah Curtis Allison, can vary Emma Morgenstern, an Harry Huggins. You can subscribe to this progress on Itunes or ever you get your podcast and you should really come visit. Frequent stop com, because there you will find our entire podcast archive was a complete transcript of every episode we ve ever made along with the music credits and lots.
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Transcript generated on 2021-01-23.