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College Education and Social trust. An Evidence-based Study on the Causal Mechanisms

Jian Huang, H. Maassen van den Brink & W. Groot


This paper examines the influence of college education on social trust at the individual level. Based on the literature of trust and social trust, we hypothesize that life experience/development since adulthood and perceptions of cultural/social structures are two primary channels in the causal linkage between college education and social trust. In the first part of the empirical study econometric techniques are employed to tackle the omitted-variable problem and substantial evidence is found to confirm the positive effect of college education. In the second part contemporary information is used to examine the hypothetical mechanisms in the causal inference. That life experience is a primary channel via which college education promotes social trust fails to find support in our examination, while individual perceptions of cultural and social structures explain up to 77 percent of the causal effect.

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