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Inequality and Trust: Testing a Mediating Relationship for Environmental Sustainability

  • Eric Kemp-Benedict


    (Stockholm Environment Institute, 11 Curtis Avenue, Somerville, MA 02144, USA)

Instrumental arguments linking inequality to environmental sustainability often suppose a negative relationship between inequality and social cohesion. While social cohesion is difficult to measure, there are measures of a narrower concept, social trust, and empirical studies have shown that social trust is negatively related to inequality. In this paper we test whether at least part of the observed relationship may be explained by income level, rather than income distribution. We use individual response data from the World Values Survey at the income decile level, and find evidence that income level is indeed important in explaining differences in levels of social trust, but it is insufficient to explain all of the dependence. In the sample used for the study, we find that both income level and income distribution help explain differences in social trust between countries.

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Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Sustainability.

Volume (Year): 5 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 (February)
Pages: 779-788

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Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:5:y:2013:i:2:p:779-788:d:23716
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  1. Justina A.V. Fischer & Benno Torgler, 2006. "The Effect of Relative Income Position on Social Capital," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 26(4), pages 1-20.
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  9. Frederick Solt, 2009. "Standardizing the World Income Inequality Database," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(2), pages 231-242.
  10. James K. Boyce, 2004. "Green and Brown? Globalization and the Environment," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2004-01, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  11. Jordahl, Henrik, 2007. "Inequality and Trust," Working Paper Series 715, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
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  13. Jen, Min Hua & Jones, Kelvyn & Johnston, Ron, 2009. "Global variations in health: Evaluating Wilkinson's income inequality hypothesis using the World Values Survey," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(4), pages 643-653, February.
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