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11 March 2021

Local community interpersonal trust in Sweden before and after the refugee crisis


During the period 2014 - 2016, a number of municipalities around Sweden received a large number of newly arrived migrants. With the reception of these new arrivals, the degree of cultural diversity (e.g. the mixture of citizens with different countries of birth) in the country increased.

This report from the Swedish Migration Studies Delegation studies interpersonal trust in Sweden before and after the so-called refugee crisis, and examines whether the reception of new arrivals in various municipalities between 2014 and 2017 affected interpersonal trust within the local community.

The report contributes new knowledge to understandings of local community trust. It looks at the ways in which this trust is affected by increased diversity in the population, and also the importance of economic inequality and interpersonal contacts.

Overall conclusions reached and recommendations made include: 

  • "Confidence in others" (eg. interpersonal trust) within the local community decreased in 20 of 33 municipalities between 2009 and 2017. In municipalities that received many new arrivals per municipal resident, local community confidence decreased slightly more than in municipalities that received fewer new arrivals;
  • In municipalities with a relatively high degree of income inequality, the reception of new arrivals had a stronger negative impact on local community trust than in municipalities with a lower income inequality;
  • People who often have contact with those from other backgrounds in the area where they live have, on average, higher local community trust;
  • An important conclusion is that in order to safeguard trust within the local community, and at the same time ensure a continued high level of immigration, this may need to be combined with measures that promote positive contacts between groups. One way to create the conditions for close and regular contact between different groups is to speed up entry into the labour market for newly arrived immigrants. Increased labour market participation also contributes to reduced income inequality, which in turn is beneficial for local community trust.

The report was written by Susanne Wallman Lundåsen, associate professor of political science at the Centre for Local Government Studies (CKS) at Linköping University, and the Center for Civil Society Research at Ersta Sköndal Bräcke University College. 

Find out more here.

Delmi Policy Brief 2021-3
(353.92 KB - PDF)


Susanne Wallman Lundåsen
Geographic area
Original source
Posted by
Lisa Pelling
Country Coordinator

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