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One of the weird things I randomly noticed when querying the “TRUST” variable in the GSS was that men were more trusting than women. I didn’t think much of that, but take a look at this logistic regression:

Trust in people, sample from after the year 2000
Logistic regression
Variable All Non-Hispanic white
B Probability B Probability
SEX -0.340 0.000 -0.485 0.000
WORDSUM 0.176 0.000 0.201 0.000
DEGREE 0.343 0.000 0.274 0.000
COHORT -0.018 0.000 -0.013 0.001
SEI 0.002 0.393 0.003 0.394
POLVIEWS -0.105 0.011 -0.121 0.018
PARTYID 0.073 0.019 0.011 0.777
GOD -0.035 0.438 0.015 0.765
ATTEND 0.023 0.261 0.038 0.105
Pseduo R-square = 0.096 Pseduo R-square = 0.083

The outcomes are “can trust people = 1” and “cannot trust people = 0.” I removed “depends” (which is never more than 5-10% in a class anyway). For sex 1 = male and 2 = female, so you can immediately see that being a woman will reduce the odds of being trusting. WORDSUM, vocabulary score, and educational attainment go in the direction you’d expect. Interestingly controlling for education doesn’t remove the vocabulary effect. COHORT is the year you were born. Lower values indicate older individuals in the data set. Younger people are less trusting, so this makes sense. To my surprise on the individual level religion doesn’t seem that important.

Since the sample sizes for sex are huge I thought I’d compare sex differences in trust over the years by demographic variable.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data Analysis, GSS, Social Science, Trust 
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Yesterday I made an admission of my lack of trust after the 2008 financial crisis. I should have been more precise and clarified that my collapse in trust has been particularly aimed at elites and “experts.” In any case, I realized that the General Social Survey has 2010 results available. This means that I could check any changes in public trust and confidence from 2008 to 2010! Below in the set of charts there is one that assesses trust in banks and financial institutions. The direction of change validates my specific implication. But it seems that my intuition was wrong in that American society had slouched toward more general distrust. This makes me less pessimistic about the direction of our culture and the future rationally (I can’t say that my visceral emotional cynicism has been abolished).

As you can see there wasn’t much change between 2008 and 2010. For the broad question of “can you trust people” I also decided to break it down by political ideology, education, and intelligence in two year rages, 1972-1991 and 1992-2010. There are noticeable differences in intelligence and education (less intelligent and less educated people are more distrustful), but not in terms of ideology.

After the bar plots there are another range of line graphs by year showing confidence in a range of institutions (including finance) from 1972 to 2010. It is interesting how much you can see short term volatility due to world events, which quickly recedes back toward the trend line.

• Category: Science • Tags: Data, Data Analysis, Finance, General Social Survey, GSS, Trust 
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"