Within the social capital literature it is often assumed that membership of voluntary associations causes generalized social trust and not the other way around. This study challenges this assumption by investigating if generalized social trust causes membership in a novel design that yields valid results despite possible feed-back effects from membership to trust. Using both individual and country level data in a multilevel analysis, the paper shows that trust does increase membership. Treating associational membership as exogenous to trust produces biased results, it is therefore concluded. Moreover, the study provide rare individual level evidence for a connection between generalized social trust and collective action in that generalized social trust in particular increases membership of associations producing public goods.
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Violence and Conflict, the 24th Conference of the Nordic Sociological Association, 2008