The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Portrait Jan Mewes. Photo.

Jan Mewes

Associate Professor | Senior Lecturer

Portrait Jan Mewes. Photo.

Experiences matter: A longitudinal study of individual-level sources of declining social trust in the United States


  • Jan Mewes
  • Malcolm Fairbrother
  • Nick Giordano
  • Cary Wu
  • Rima Wilkes

Summary, in English

The US has experienced a substantial decline in social trust in recent decades. Surprisingly few studies analyze whether individual-level explanations can account for this decrease. We use three-wave panel data from the General Social Survey (2006–2014) to study the effects of four possible individual-level sources of changes in social trust: job loss, social ties, income, and confidence in political institutions. Findings from fixed-effects linear regression models suggest that all but social ties matter. We then use 1973–2018 GSS data to predict trust based on observed values for unemployment, confidence in institutions, and satisfaction with income, versus an alternative counterfactual scenario in which the values of those three predictors are held constant at their mean levels in the early 1970s. Predicted values from these two scenarios differ substantially, suggesting that decreasing confidence in institutions and increasing unemployment scarring may explain about half of the observed decline in US social trust.


  • Sociology
  • Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology
  • EXODIAB: Excellence of Diabetes Research in Sweden
  • EpiHealth: Epidemiology for Health

Publishing year





Social Science Research



Document type

Journal article




  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)




  • Three Worlds of Trust: A Longitudinal Study of Welfare States, Life-Course Risks, and Social Trust

Research group

  • Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology


  • ISSN: 0049-089X