Cooperation, Trust, and Economic Development: An Experimental Study in China


Many previous empirical studies have suggested that cooperation and trust affect economic growth. However, the precise relationship between trust and cooperation (i.e., whether trust leads to cooperation or cooperation leads to trust) remains unclear and it is not known how the level of economic development affects the level of cooperation and trust. Using a combination of public goods experiment, gambling game experiment, and trust game experiment, we investigate the links among cooperation, trust, and economic development in four regions of China. Our results suggest that first, there is a U-shaped or V-shaped relationship between cooperation and economic development; second, on the one hand, cooperation leads to trust, and on the other hand, more cooperative behavior may be created by rewarding trusting behavior; and third, men are more cooperative and trusting than women. Furthermore, we find that the widely used 'GSS trust' question from the General Social Survey (GSS) does not predict either cooperation or trust, whereas the questions 'GSS fair' and 'GSS help' have weak predictive power for trusting behavior but not for cooperative behavior.


Cooperation, Trust, Economic development, Experiment, China

JEL Classification

C91, H41, I32


Junyi SHEN
Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration
Kobe University
Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe
657-8501 Japan
Phone: +81-78-803-7036
FAX: +81-78-803-7059

Xiangdong QIN
School of Economics, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China