Skip to main content

Trust among refugees. The impact of welfare state institutions

This project sets out to study how institutional and social trust develops over time among newly arrived refugees in Norway and Denmark. Our focus is on the role of welfare state institutions: How do different institutions, policies and street-level practices influence refugees’ trust in host country institutions?

Trust is a crucial ingredient for a number of aspects related to well-functioning societies and high levels of trust has been described as an essential part of the Nordic welfare states’ recipe for success. But how will increased migration from low-trust contexts impact on Nordic host societies? Will immigrants adapt to the Nordic levels of trust, or will trust levels formed in countries of origin persist in the new institutional context? Can state institutions, which tend to treat asylum seekers in particular with extreme distrust, generate institutional trust among refugees’ post settlement? And can the development of institutional trust among refugees through their interaction with state institutions also propel the development of generalized social trust?

This project sets out to study how institutional trust develops over time among refugees in Norway and Denmark - two countries that despite overall similarities have gone separate ways regarding policies towards refugees.

Our focus is on the role of the welfare state: how do its institutions, policies and practices influence the level of trust that refugees develop towards host country institutions? Methodologically, the proposed project rests on a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches. We combine 1) a longitudinal survey in three waves among refugees in Norway and Denmark with 2) administrative register data at the individual level and 3) qualitative interviews and observations of face-to-face encounters between refugees and street-level bureaucrats in a selection of welfare states institutions.

With a comparative study of refugees’ experiences within two different welfare and integration regimes, we aim to increase knowledge on how institutional design and street-level implementation may build or break trust.