Growing Apart, Losing Trust? The Impact of Inequality on Social Capital

Author/Editor:

Alexander Hijzen ; Eric D Gould

Publication Date:

August 22, 2016

Electronic Access:

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Disclaimer: This Working Paper should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF.The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy. Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to further debate

Summary:

There is a widespread perception that trust and social capital have declined in United States as well as other advanced economies, while income inequality has tended to increase. While previous research has noted that measured trust declines as individuals become less similar to one another, this paper examines whether the downward trend in social capital is responding to the increasing gaps in income. The analysis uses data from the American National Election Survey (ANES) for the United States, and the European Social Survey (ESS) for Europe. Our analysis for the United States exploits variation across states and over time (1980-2010), while our analysis of the ESS utilizes variation across European countries and over time (2002-2012). The results provide robust evidence that overall inequality lowers an individual’s sense of trust in others in the United States as well as in other advanced economies. These effects mainly stem from residual inequality, which may be more closely associated with the notion of fairness, as well as inequality in the bottom of the distribution. Since trust has been linked to economic growth and development in the existing literature, these findings suggest an important, indirect way through which inequality affects macro-economic performance.

Series:

Working Paper No. 16/176

Subject:

English

Publication Date:

August 22, 2016

ISBN/ISSN:

9781475529487/1018-5941

Stock No:

WPIEA2016176

Price:

$18.00 (Academic Rate:$18.00)

Format:

Paper

Pages:

46

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