Social Policy Attitudes and Social Capital in Europe
Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Jørgen Goul Andersen, Torben Fridberg and Kristen Ringdal
Chapter 10: Welfare Benefits and Generalized Trust in Finland and Europe
Antti Kouvo, Tomi Kankainen and Mikko Niemelä INTRODUCTION International studies on social capital provide a marvellous image of fair and efficient welfare state institutions and social cohesion in the Nordic countries. As the ESS datasets demonstrate, the generalized trust of citizens (see Figure 10.1) and confidence in public institutions are at a high level and civil society appears to be very vigorous. The Nordic welfare states have for a long time scored high in generalized trust, while the southern and eastern parts of Europe score repeatedly lower in this regard (e.g. Delhey and Newton, 2003; van Oorschot and Arts, 2005). Recent studies have explored the causes of the accumulation of social capital in the Nordic welfare states. Credible reasons for this in international comparisons are equal income distribution, national wealth, ethnic homogeneity and good governance (e.g. Delhey and Newton, 2003; van Oorschot and Arts, 2006). All these factors seem to correlate strongly with high generalized trust. Many of these characteristics are the products of long historical development and there is no unequivocal certainty as to which are the causes and which the effects. The question of the causes and consequences in the relationship between the Nordic welfare states and social capital is one of the growing fields of study in the research field of social capital. It is also possible that the development of the Nordic welfare states and the growth of social capital are fully independent developments, but according to everything we know about the factors of social capital...
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