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Contextual theories and the radius of trust.

Open Panel

Abstract

Social trust is an abundantly used concept within the social capital literature and is mostly explained using individual or contextual theories. However, two caveats appear that are dealt within this paper. First of all, it is important to look at the radius of trust. While most of the time, generalised trust with an infinite radius is meant when referring to social trust, a reduction of its radius to the own community may have an effect on how individual and especially contextual determinants influence social trust. Secondly, the level that is looked at when examining contextual theories is mostly the national level, while it can be argued that also the lower community level may have an effect on social trust, especially when this trust refers to people within the own community. Using survey data on 40 Belgian communities, multilevel analysis brings us to the conclusion that the community context does matter for explaining social trust. However, context matters more when referring to a more precise marked out form of social trust. While only affluent and ethnic homogeneous communities generate generalised trust; all selected indicators that connote social cohesiveness and homogeneity within a community are seen to generate the more delimited kind of community trust.