The Impact of Welfare Regime on Social Trust in Europe : A Multilevel Investigation
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Achieving a high level of social trust is a desirable goal for most countries, since social trust has been considered a key driver of progress, and often goes hand in hand with cooperation and successful political performance. Social trust is basically a measure of how much confidence one has in strangers. While a lot of research has been undertaken in order to examine the benefits of social trust, less attention has been paid to its determinants. The purpose of this master’s thesis is to shed some light on this issue. There are mainly two broad schools of thought related to social trust. The first school emphasises that social trust is something that is influenced by individual characteristics and experiences. However, it has also been argued that in addition to individual particularities, the structure of the society at large might have an impact, which is the main idea behind the second school of thought. By means of multilevel modelling, and by using data from five waves (2002-2010) of the European Social Survey (ESS), we will be able to study the effect of both individual as well as contextual factors on social trust simultaneously. One of the main aims of this master’s thesis is to explore the link between welfare regime and social trust. By using an extended version of Esping-Andersen’s (1990) threefold welfare regime typology, we will investigate whether welfare regime could explain some of the variation in social trust among European citizens. Our results confirm that it is reasonable to continue analysing European countries grouped into the five different welfare regimes as indicated by our study (social democratic, conservative, liberal, Mediterranean, and post-communist). The main finding of this master’s thesis is that even when controlling for a number of other factors, the social democratic welfare regime still has a very high level of social trust compared with the four other regime types. As a possible explanation for this, we highlight the differences among the various welfare regimes concerning access to welfare benefits (policy design) and the various forms/degrees of stratification that this in turn creates within society. In addition to welfare regime, our study also demonstrates that a number of individual-level variables should be viewed as important determinants of social trust.