Do migrants trust? - A multi-level analysis of individual, community, origin and destination effects on the level of interpersonal trust of migrants in Europe
Sociology Trinity College Dublin Dublin, Ireland
Ethnic diversity is often claimed to lead to a decline in social cohesion and lower trust levels amongst citizens, although this is much disputed (Hooghe et al. 2006, Lancee and Dronkers 2008, Putnam 2007). Trust is arguably maintained more easily in a homogenous setting, based on the assumption that "familiarity breeds trust". High levels of trust in a society are generally considered desirable because they act as a "lubricant" for various processes (Nannestad and Svendsen 2005) and have been shown to be linked to democracy (Inglehart 1999), a thriving civic society and even the economic success of a country (Putnam 1993, Fukuyama 1995). Previous research on interpersonal trust has primarily been concerned with the (declining) trust levels of natives, but relatively little work has investigated whether migrants trust their host societies. This paper aims to explore this further, with focus on two core issues: firstly, to discuss how migrants´ trust levels are influenced by a range of factors that could aid or impede their ability to trust, such as discrimination and difference, as well as a the national policy environment. Secondly, to contribute to the debate around the nature of trust, in particular the interplay of a "culture of trust" learned early during socialisation, and a "rational" trust based on the evaluation of current circumstances and experiences. Multi-level modelling is used to allow for the investigation of multiple origins and destinations using data from the three rounds of the European Social Survey, supplemented by data related to migrants´ communities, origin and host countries. It is found that cultural, religious or ethnic differences do not seem to impede migrants´ trust in others, whereas discrimination leads to significantly lower levels. Favourable policies and citizenship are not found to have the expected positive effect. A "honeymoon" effect was found with regards to length of stay, with recent migrants being significantly more trusting than migrants that arrived a long time ago. The "culture of trust" of the origin country continues to influence migrants´ trust levels, although the context of the host country has a stronger effect.