Social indicators research vol:85 issue:3 pages:515-532
Abstract Generalized trust features as the most prominent attitudinal element of social capital, and as such the concept is widely used in comparative research. In this article we investigate the cross-cultural equivalence of the three-item scale on generalized trust that is included in the European Social Survey 2002 and 2004 waves. The use of metric equivalence tests demonstrates that these tree items can be considered as a reliable and crossculturally valid concept. If we apply the stricter scalar equivalence test, however, the result is that the scale is not sufficiently equivalent across European societies, with especially the item on expecting help from others showing major problems in a number of countries. We close this article by offering some suggestions on how the generalized trust scale might be used in a (sufficiently) reliable manner in cross-cultural research across Europe.