Cross-cultural measurement equivalence of generalized trust: Evidence from the European Social Survey (2002 and 2004)

T. Reeskens*, M. Hooghe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

153 Citations (Scopus)


Generalized trust features as the most prominent attitudinal element of social capital, and as such the concept is widely used in comparative research. In this article we investigate the cross-cultural equivalence of the three-item scale on generalized trust that is included in the European Social Survey 2002 and 2004 waves. The use of metric equivalence tests demonstrates that these tree items can be considered as a reliable and cross-culturally valid concept. If we apply the stricter scalar equivalence test, however, the result is that the scale is not sufficiently equivalent across European societies, with especially the item on expecting help from others showing major problems in a number of countries. We close this article by offering some suggestions on how the generalized trust scale might be used in a (sufficiently) reliable manner in cross-cultural research across Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-532
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • generalized trust
  • measurement
  • cross-cultural equivalence
  • European social survey
  • social capital

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