Trustlab Italy


Principal Investigator:
Prof. Arnstein Aassve

Host Institution:
Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy – Università Bocconi Milano

Project duration:
1st October 2016 – 30th September 2021

1.850.820 EUR

The IFAMID project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement n° 694145

Trustlab Italy is a sub-project of IFAMID. It was surveyed in 2017  in collaboration with OECD and funded by the IFAMID project. 

What is trustlab?

Numerous studies have described trust, both trust in institutions and trust in other people, as a key ingredient of social and economic progress. It has been linked to income per capita and economic growth, health status and health-related behaviour, crime rates and subjective well-being.

However, particularly during and in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, serious concerns that trust deteriorated have emerged. Indeed, trust in a broad range of public and private institutions has fallen the most in the OECD countries that have been hit most by the crisis and have seen the largest falls (or the smallest growth) in household income and earnings since 2005, as well as some of the largest increases in long-term unemployment (OECD, 2017a). The crumbling of trust has gone hand in hand with an increase in non-mainstream voting and populism in several countries .

While overcoming the trust crisis has become a policy priority, the difficulty of identifying credible measures of trust has been a practical challenge.  For instance, the validity of self-reported measures trust in others drawn from survey questions has been challenged, as they stressed their poor correlation with behavioural measures of trust in others. Survey measures of trust in government have also been criticized for capturing the popularity of current governments rather than ‘structural’ trust in governmental institutions.

The Trustlab experiment sheds light on both measurement and policy issues of restoring trust. On the measurement front, Trustlab is the first internationally comparable and nationally representative data collection exercise on trust and other social preferences through techniques from behavioural science and experimental economics, which allow comparing and better understanding both self-reported and experimental measures of trust.  On the policy front, Trustlab combines trust measures with an extensive survey on their policy and contextual determinants.

As such, Trustlab is related to recent initiatives such as the OECD Trust Strategy or the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16 (“Promote access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”). Typically, these initiatives have: i) underscored the need to regularly collect data on trust, as described in the OECD Guidelines on Measuring Trust (OECD, 2017b); ii) reflected on the drivers of trust and on strategies to rebuild public trust, as laid out in the OECD’s Trust and Public Policy report (OECD, 2017c).

WHAT IS special about trustlab italy?

Other than measuring trust in the Italian government and its institutions, the Trustlab Italy includes two unique modules. The first concerns fertility intentions, and the second is a 15 item measure of personality traits. The survey also includes information about the municipality where the respondent resides, which is matched with municipality specific measurements, such as income and inequality.

Working papers

Aassve, A. et al. (2018), “Trustlab Italy: a New Dataset for the study of Trust, Family Demography and Personality”, DONDENA working papers

The paper can be accessed here