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Economic Inequality, Interpersonal Trust, and Support for Redistributive Policies in Latin America
Unformatted Document Text:  3 influence lie behind many of the mechanisms that reproduce inequality…with disproportionate influence over the state by wealthy individuals” (De Ferranti 2004 5). The same report also concludes that given the overall negative effects of economic inequality, “decisive action to tackle the range of mechanisms that reproduce inequality” is necessary (De Ferranti 2004 1). Nevertheless, “decisive action” is only likely to take place if solidarity and cooperation rather than egoism prevails, as suggested by the coexistence in Scandinavian countries of welfare states, relatively high levels of interpersonal trust, and low economic inequality (Rothstein and Stolle 2003; Kumlin and Rothstein 2005; Rothstein 2005). Ironically, the theme of economic inequality and its relationship with interpersonal trust is virtually absent in the Latin American democratization literature even though this region universally exhibits low to moderate levels of interpersonal trust (Inglehart 1999; Norris 2002; Klesner 2007) and one of the highest rates of economic inequality in the world (De Ferranti 2004; The World Bank 2006). Furthermore, despite the increased emphasis in the last couple of years by economists and political scientists alike concerning the negative effects of Latin America’s economic inequality on democratic stability (e.g.De Ferranti 2004; Smith 2005; Carlin 2006; Birdsall 2007) and consequently on the urgent need to level the economic playing field, citizens’ opinions on redistributive public policies and the role that interpersonal trust vis- à-vis civic participation, ideology, and political trust (i.e. trust in government) plays in determining the extent of citizens’ support for such policies remains largely unexplored. This paper hopes to break new ground in the Latin American democratization literature by testing the following two propositions empirically: 1) economic inequality represents a constraint on the formation of interpersonal trust 2) interpersonal distrust decreases citizens’ support for public policies targeted to alleviate economic inequality. If these two propositions find empirical

Authors: Cordova, Abby.
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influence lie behind many of the mechanisms that reproduce inequality…with disproportionate
influence over the state by wealthy individuals” (De Ferranti 2004 5). The same report also
concludes that given the overall negative effects of economic inequality, “decisive action to
tackle the range of mechanisms that reproduce inequality” is necessary (De Ferranti 2004 1).
Nevertheless, “decisive action” is only likely to take place if solidarity and cooperation rather
than egoism prevails, as suggested by the coexistence in Scandinavian countries of welfare
states, relatively high levels of interpersonal trust, and low economic inequality (Rothstein and
Stolle 2003; Kumlin and Rothstein 2005; Rothstein 2005).
Ironically, the theme of economic inequality and its relationship with interpersonal trust is
virtually absent in the Latin American democratization literature even though this region
universally exhibits low to moderate levels of interpersonal trust (Inglehart 1999; Norris 2002;
Klesner 2007) and one of the highest rates of economic inequality in the world (De Ferranti
2004; The World Bank 2006). Furthermore, despite the increased emphasis in the last couple of
years by economists and political scientists alike concerning the negative effects of Latin
America’s economic inequality on democratic stability (e.g.De Ferranti 2004; Smith 2005;
Carlin 2006; Birdsall 2007) and consequently on the urgent need to level the economic playing
field, citizens’ opinions on redistributive public policies and the role that interpersonal trust vis-
à-vis civic participation, ideology, and political trust (i.e. trust in government) plays in
determining the extent of citizens’ support for such policies remains largely unexplored.
This paper hopes to break new ground in the Latin American democratization literature by
testing the following two propositions empirically: 1) economic inequality represents a constraint
on the formation of interpersonal trust 2) interpersonal distrust decreases citizens’ support for
public policies targeted to alleviate economic inequality. If these two propositions find empirical


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