Acta Politica

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 584–606 | Cite as

Does inequality erode generalized trust? Evidence from Romanian youths

  • Paul SumEmail author
  • Gabriel Bădescu
Original Article


Generalized trust is a critical component of liberal democratic citizenship. We evaluate the extent to which exposure to socioeconomic inequality erodes trust among Romanian youths. Using national survey data of Romanian eighth-grade and high school students, we evaluate this effect as a product of socioeconomic diversity within the classroom, controlling for the social status of the students as well as socioeconomic inequality within the community where the school is located. Our analysis shows that generalized trust is higher among older adolescents. However, despite this maturing effect, youth exposed to greater levels of socioeconomic diversity have significantly lower levels of trust. The effect is particularly acute for students in the ninth grade controlling for community diversity and polarization. The result reinforces the idea that generalized trust develops early in one’s life and is quite stable, although a major life transformation, such as entering high school, may alter trust depending on the social context.


Generalized trust Economic inequality Adolescents Romania Education 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science & Public AdministrationUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Political, Administrative, and Communication SciencesBabes-Boylai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania

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