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Trust and prosocial behaviour in a process of state capacity building: the case of the Palestinian territories1


This paper contributes to the literature by conducting the first empirical investigation into the determinants of prosocial behaviour in the Palestinian Territories, with a focus on the role of trust and institutions. Drawing on a unique dataset collected through the administration of a questionnaire to a representative sample of the population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, we have found that institutional trust is the strongest predictor of prosociality. This result suggests that, in collectivist societies with low levels of generalized trust, the lack of citizens’ confidence in the fairness and efficiency of public institutions may compromise social order. The strengthening of institutional trust may also reinforce prosocial behaviour in individualist societies, where a decline in generalized trust has been documented by empirical studies.

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The paper benefited from comments by participants at the ERF 20th Annual Conference: Economic Development and Social Justice (Cairo, Egypt, March, 2014), at the seminar of the London Centre for Corporate Governance and Business Ethics (London, January 31, 2014) at the 25th Annual EAPE Conference 2013 ‘Beyond Deindustrialisation: the Future of Industry’ (Paris, France, November 7–9, 2013), at the Fourth Annual Conference in Political Economy ‘Political Economy, Activism and Alternative Economic Strategies’ (The Hague, The Netherlands, July 9–11, 2013) and at research seminars in London and Rome. An initial version of the paper is under the ERF working paper series N.841. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers whose suggestions allowed a substantial improvement of the paper. We thank the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) for sharing data for the measurement of social capital in the Palestinian Territories. We are deeply indebted to Jamil Hilal, Klaus Nielsen and Hadi Salehi Esfahani for precious comments and suggestions. Usual caveats apply.

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Journal of Institutional Economics
  • ISSN: 1744-1374
  • EISSN: 1744-1382
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