This paper examines the effect of political movement on trust formation, in the context of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–76), an episode that involved conflicts and non-cooperative behavior under moral dilemmas. Combining both county-level variation in revolutionary intensity and cohort-level variation in trust formation ages, we construct individual exposure to the revolution using a difference-in-differences strategy. Our findings indicate that individuals in counties with higher revolutionary intensity and of trust formation cohorts report significantly lower levels of trust more than three decades later. This effect is more pronounced for those more likely to have been targeted during the revolution as well as those with greater exposure to its early years (1966–71). The results are robust after accounting for the dynamic effects of pre-revolution socio-economic characteristics, an extensive set of region-specific cohort trends, placebo tests, and potential reporting bias.
- political movement
- social capital