Economic Inequality, Interpersonal Trust, and Support for
Redistributive Policies in Latin America
Abby B. Córdova
Political Science Department
Prepared for delivery at the 66th Midwest Political Science Association Annual
National Conference, April 3-6, 2008, Chicago, IL
This research identifies sources of interpersonal trust in Latin America by exploring why
the most developed countries in the Americas, namely Canada and the United States, show higher levels of interpersonal trust than their neighboring countries. The findings of this paper suggest that Latin America’s high economic inequality poses a challenge to democracy because it triggers interpersonal mistrust. This paper also finds that in Latin America interpersonal trust, rather than civic participation, ideology or trust in government, promotes citizens’ support for the implementation of public policies aimed to close the gap between rich and poor. Taken together, the results suggest a vicious circle between Latin America’s historically high economic inequality, low interpersonal trust, and low support for redistributive policies within certain segments of the population, especially the well-off.
I would very much like to thank the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United
Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Center for the Americas of Vanderbilt University for providing the funding for the survey data used in this research effort. I also would like to thank Professor Mitchell A. Seligson and the members of my dissertation committee for their valuable feedback on this research project, and Brian Faughnan for his detailed comments to the first draft of the manuscript.
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