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Kesternich, Iris; Smith, James P.; Winter, Joachim K. and Hoerl, Maximiliane (2019): Early-Life Circumstances Predict Measures of Trust among Adults: Evidence from Hunger Episodes in Post-War Germany. In: Scandinavian Journal of Economics

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Can a major shock in childhood permanently shape trust? We consider a hunger episode in Germany after World War II, and we construct a measure of hunger exposure from official data on caloric rations set monthly by the occupying forces, providing regional and temporal variations. We correlate hunger exposure with measures of trust using data from a nationally representative sample of the German population. We show that individuals exposed to low caloric rations in childhood have significantly lower levels of trust as adults. This finding highlights that early-life experiences can have long-term effects in domains other than health, where such effects are well documented.

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