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 for students in higher grades. However, despite this maturing effect, students exposed to greater levels of socioeconomic diversity have significantly lower levels of trust. The effect is particularly acute for students in the ninth grade. This finding holds when controlling for socioeconomic diversity and polarization in the community. 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.
This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Acta Politica. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Sum, P. & Bădescu, G. Acta Polit (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41269-018-0092-2 is available online at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/s41269-018-0092-2
Sum, Paul E. and Bădescu, Gabriel, "Does inequality erode generalized trust? Evidence from Romanian youths" (2018). Political Science & Public Administration Faculty Publications. 3.