Trust and Trustworthiness of Christians, Muslims and Atheists/Agnostics in the U.S.
58 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 12, 2019
Trust is a cornerstone of economic development. Further, trust is promoted within religious groups and might even be the very reason religions emerged. The U.S. stands out as particularly religious, compared to other Western countries. Yet, little is known about trust within and across its religious affiliations. We use a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to examine how trust and trustworthiness vary across religions (Christianity, Islam, and non-believers; atheists and agnostics) and religiosity. Three novel findings emerge. First, Christians are trusted more than other religious groups in the U.S., which is due entirely to a Christian ingroup bias – Christians trust other Christians more than they trust Muslims and atheists/agnostics, while Muslims and non-believers trust all religious groups the same. Second, religiosity matters to trust. However, the way in which it matters depends on religious beliefs and ingroups. Religious people trust those of higher religiosity more only when they are of the same religion. In contrast, non-believers trust people of higher religiosity less. Third, religious people may be more trustworthy than non-believers. Our results may help explain the cause of observed discrimination against Muslims and atheists, given discrimination often originates in distrust, and underscore the importance of policies that promote trust.
Keywords: religion; religiosity; Christians; Muslims; atheists; trust; trustworthiness
JEL Classification: D12; D64; D91
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation