OECD Guidelines on Measuring Trust

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23 Nov 2017
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Trust, both interpersonal trust, and trust in institutions, is a key ingredient of growth, societal well-being and governance. As a first step to improving existing measures of trust, the OECD Guidelines on Measuring Trust provide international recommendations on collecting, publishing, and analysing trust data to encourage their use by National Statistical Offices (NSOs). The Guidelines also outline why measures of trust are relevant for monitoring and policy making, and why NSOs have a critical role in enhancing the usefulness of existing trust measures. Besides looking at the statistical quality of trust measures, best approaches for measuring trust in a reliable and consistent way and guidance for reporting, interpretation and analysis are provided. A number of prototype survey modules that national and international agencies can use in their household surveys are included.

These Guidelines have been produced as part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, a pioneering project launched in 2011, with the objective to measure society’s progress across eleven domains of well-being. They complement a series of similar measurement guidelines on subjective well-being, micro statistics on household wealth, integrated analysis of the distribution on household income, consumption and wealth, as well as the quality of the working environment.

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  • Foreword

    Understanding and improving well-being requires solid evidence that can inform policymakers and citizens where, when, and for whom life is getting better. Since the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission highlighted the need to complement GDP with better measures of social, economic and environmental outcomes in 2009, the statistical community has made remarkable progress towards developing and producing such measures and regularly monitoring human well-being. Nevertheless, certain topics have not yet received the attention their importance for society’s progress might warrant. Trust is one of these topics, and these Guidelines on Measuring Trust, prepared under the umbrella of the OECD Better Life Initiative launched in 2011, represent an important step towards improving and expanding the system of well-being statistics further.

  • Executive summary

    The OECD Guidelines on Measuring Trust aim to assist data producers in collecting and reporting trust measures, and to support users of trust data in understanding different measurement approaches and their implications for analysis. They describe best practices in trust measurement, propose a core set of measures to form the basis for international comparisons, and encourage national statistical offices (NSOs) to include measures in their regular household surveys.

  • Overview and recommendations

    The main points and recommendations from the Guidelines are summarised in the following. These are organised in four sections, each reflecting the content of the substantive chapters of the Guidelines. The section corresponding to (measuring trust) is outlined in more detail as this chapter provides the most detailed and prescriptive recommendations relating to the collection of trust data.

  • Introduction

    This chapter describes the context in which these Guidelines were produced. The first part of the chapter sets out the motivation for producing these Guidelines and identifies some of the key international initiatives that are creating a need for better trust measures. The second part presents the scope and objectives of the Guidelines and provides an overview of the structure and contents of the full report.

  • Concept and validity

    A clear definition of the concept of trust is necessary in order to measure it. Building on a review of different theoretical approaches to the concept of trust, this chapter provides a working definition and a conceptual framework to underpin its measurement. The framework distinguishes between interpersonal and institutional trust and between the two main categories of interpersonal trust: trust in others, and trust in friends, family and neighbours. Four approaches to measuring trust are identified, which provide the organising framework for the question modules proposed in these Guidelines. The chapter also discusses the statistical quality of trust measures, with a focus on their relevance and accuracy. While measures of both interpersonal and institutional trust are of high relevance, the picture is mixed with respect to accuracy. In particular, while there is strong evidence supporting the reliability and validity of measures of trust in others, the evidence base is weaker with respect to trust in friends, family and neighbours, and, even more so, with respect to trust in institutions. For this reason, the chapter recommends that measures of trust in others should be included in official statistics, while measures of trust in friends, family and neighbours and of trust in institutions should be regarded as more experimental.

  • Methodological considerations

    This chapter addresses potential measurement error in trust survey data, focusing on the way survey design can either exacerbate or mitigate it. For a range of issues (question wording, response formats, survey context, survey mode, cross-cultural response styles), evidence on the key methodological challenges for data quality and key practical messages for survey design are highlighted. The chapter concludes by pointing out areas where additional methodological research will be needed.

  • Measuring trust

    This chapter provides concrete advice on best practice in measuring trust in household surveys. The chapter discusses how to plan for the measurement of trust and provides concrete advice on the survey and sample design, including the target population, sample size, frequency and the duration of enumeration. Following this, the chapter sets out specific advice on questionnaire design, identifying a set of core measures of trust that should be the highest priority for measurement and which represent a minimum viable set of measures. Finally, the chapter examines the issues involved when implementing surveys to measure trust, including data coding, as well as issues relevant to interview training.

  • Output and analysis of trust data

    This chapter provides guidance for data producers, media and researchers on how to deal with trust data once they have been collected. The chapter discusses the planning of statistical releases of trust data for a range of target audiences and highlights practical examples of various reporting styles. Advice is provided on the interpretation of results and analysis of microdata, including their challenges.

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