Trust in Transitional Societies:
Experimental Results from Russia.



Donna Bahry

Penn State


Rick K. Wilson

Rice University

To what extent do individuals trust one another in transitional societies? Does trust survive when political institutions are weak, when the potential for ethnic conflict is high and when old mechanisms for social control have disappeared? This study uses a combination of survey data and laboratory experimental methods to investigate this question. The data are unique in that the experiments were conducted in the field, the subjects in the experiments were a sub-sample of a larger, face-to-face survey of the population and the respondents were drawn from a pair of matched republics from the Russian Federation. Measures of generalized and individual trust are used, as well an experimental design that taps the willing of an individual to trust an anonymous partner (and the reciprocated level of trust). The results are correlated with confidence in political and economic institutions, inter-ethnic conflict and generational change.