English title: Higher education and social trust: a European comparative perspective

Author(s): Pepka Boyadjieva - Petya Ilieva-Trichkova -

Language: English

Type: Conference paper/poster

Year: 2013


The paper aims to contribute to the ongoing debate about the importance of higher education for national and individual well-being. It focuses, in particular, on how higher education influences the construction of social trust. Social trust is defined as one of the most important subjective aspects of people’s well-being. The analysis refers to impersonal trust, i.e. trust in generalized others, and institutional trust and uses different indicators for their measurement, such as generalized trust, generalized fairness, trust in parliament, and trust in legal system. The study covers 22 European countries and explores the problem on both aggregate and individual level. It draws on data from European Social Survey (2006-2010) and applies descriptive statistics and linear regressions for their analysis. The paper argues that the higher the educational level of people is, the more trustful they are. Our findings clearly show that on individual level higher education influences positively the levels of both impersonal and institutional trust. However, they also suggest that this impact is different in countries with different level of overall trust – higher education contributes in a much greater extent for increasing the levels of trust in high-trust countries than it is the case in low and medium-trust countries. Furthermore, both impersonal and institutional trust of higher education graduates is higher in countries with stable democracy in comparison to post-communist countries. This fact, together with the finding that education alone is not sufficient to explain the variance in the trust scores given by people in different countries, raises again the question if social trust is property of individuals or of social systems. The study also demonstrates the need to go beyond the mere fact that higher education influences positively social trust and try to reveal mechanisms behind this relationship.

Conference name: International Symposium on Comparative Sciences

Location: Sofia

Start date: Oct 8, 2013

Type: Paper