English title: Higher Education and Social Trust: A European Comparative Perspective

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

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2015


The chapter focuses on how higher education (HE) influences the construction of social trust. Social trust is defined as one of the most important subjective aspect of people’s well-being. The analysis refers to impersonal trust and institutional trust, and uses various indicators for measuring the two, such as generalized trust, generalized fairness, trust in parliament, and trust in the legal system. The study covers 19 European countries and explores the problem at both aggregate and individual level. It draws on data from the European Social Survey (2006-2010), applying descriptive statistics and multilevel modeling for the analysis of data. The chapter argues that the higher the educational level of people is, the more trustful they are. Our findings clearly show that, at the individual level, HE influences positively the degrees of both impersonal and institutional trust. The results also suggest that the relationship between HE and trust differs substantially across European countries. As regards impersonal trust, the impact of HE is stronger in countries where people without HE have lower average levels of impersonal trust. However, with respect to institutional trust, HE tends to have a strong positive impact in countries with high levels of institutional trust among people without HE. Furthermore, both impersonal and institutional trust among HE graduates is greater in countries with full democracy than in those with a flawed democracy. This fact raises once again the question whether social trust is a characteristic of individuals or of social systems.

Volume: 26

Issue: 0

From page no: 153

To page no: 187

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1108/S1479-367920140000026007

Journal: International Perspectives on Education and Society

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