Generalized trust and diversity in the classroom

Generalized trust and diversity in the classroom: a longitudinal study of Romanian adolescents

Gabriel Bădescu (with Paul Sum)

In Communist and Postcommunist Studies. Vol. 48, Issue 1: March 2015, 33-41

Generalized trust, the faith we place in strangers, is a fundamental attribute of democratic societies. We investigate the development of generalized trust using survey data collected from Romanian high school students within a multi-level, panel research design. We find that diversity in the classroom, defined through ethnic and socio-economic differences, has negative effects on generalized trust. Associational membership interacts indirectly with diversity, counteracting the negative impact of ethnic diversity but reinforcing socio-economic distinctions. The findings support cultural theories of generalized trust and point to the potentially positive role educational policy might play in encouraging trust among youths.