Trust and Trustworthiness of Christians, Muslims and Atheists/Agnostics in the U.S.

58 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2020

See all articles by Linda Thunstrom

Linda Thunstrom

University of Wyoming

Chian Jones Ritten

University of Wyoming

Chris T. Bastian

University of Wyoming

Elizabeth Minton

University of Wyoming

Dayana Zhappassova

University of Wyoming

Date Written: December 12, 2019

Abstract

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

Thunstrom, Linda and Jones Ritten, Chian and Bastian, Chris T. and Minton, Elizabeth and Zhappassova, Dayana, Trust and Trustworthiness of Christians, Muslims and Atheists/Agnostics in the U.S. (December 12, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3503001 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3503001

Linda Thunstrom (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming ( email )

P.O. Box 3985
Laramie, WY 82071-3985
United States

Chian Jones Ritten

University of Wyoming ( email )

Box 3434 University Station
Laramie, WY 82070
United States

Chris T. Bastian

University of Wyoming ( email )

Box 3434 University Station
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
Laramie, WY 82071
United States
(307) 766-4377 (Phone)

Elizabeth Minton

University of Wyoming ( email )

Box 3434 University Station
Laramie, WY 82070
United States

Dayana Zhappassova

University of Wyoming ( email )

Box 3434 University Station
Laramie, WY 82070
United States

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