"Drinking Tea with the Neighbors: Informal Clubs, Social Trust, and Trustworthiness in Mali"
Featuring Jaimie Bleck, Associate Professor of Political Science
Despite substantial theorizing on social capital, there has been scant empirical evidence of the relationship between associational membership and trust and trustworthiness. This study explores informal social clubs with diverse membership in a weak West African state: Mali. It asks: is membership in these groups associated with greater general trust and trustworthiness? The study leverages 18 months of mixed-methods fieldwork in Mali, including 375 group surveys, 2,525 surveys of members and non-members, more than 1,300 trust games, as well as transcripts from focus groups in 69 of these clubs. We find evidence strongly suggestive of links between associational membership and trustworthiness toward broader society. The clubs embody characteristics that social capital theorists believe to generate trust: egalitarian composition, diverse membership, positive reciprocity, and face to face interaction. We use propensity score matching to analyze how members and non-members play the trust game with strangers. We find that members of these groups are more trustworthy. As receivers, they return 12 percent more to their partners in the trust game than similar, non-member peers. This result holds whether games are played with members of the same or different linguistic communities. We do not find a systematic effect of membership on trust. Trustworthiness in the game is also positively correlated with self-reported attitudinal trust and real world behaviors that we might associate with trustworthiness including volunteering in the community and helping friends. Analysis of causal statements within the focus group data suggests that the experience of membership in these groups, rather than self-selection alone, fosters general trustworthiness by bridging across society and expanding members' networks, facilitating bonding between members from diverse backgrounds, socializing participants into pro-social Malian norms, and providing stress relief.
Discussant: Sebastian Elischer
Open to Ph.D. students, fellows, and faculty who are interested in civil war, violence, crime, peace, conflict management, and conflict resolution. The workshop is an informal gathering to discuss work-in-progress, dissertation chapters and proposals, practice conference talks, etc.