The impact of corruption on social trust

Sean Richey (2010)

Key facts

American Politics Research
Type of publication
Journal article
Elements of social cohesion
Geographical focus
United States
Main thematic areas
Political institutions & governance


I test the impact of governmental corruption on generalized social trust. Based on prior research in comparative politics and criminology, I hypothesize that increasing governmental corruption leads to decreasing beliefs that others are trustworthy. To test my hypothesis, I combine aggregate state-level data on convictions for governmental corruption with American National Election Studies panel survey data with waves in 2000, 2002, and 2004. My findings show a clear impact of greater corruption on levels of generalized trust. I find that living in states with increased corruption lowers generalized trust, while controlling for other known determinants. This research expands our knowledge of how institutional actions influence generalized trust.

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