Inequality and Trust: Testing a Mediating Relationship for Environmental Sustainability
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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