American Decline

Why Are Americans So Distrustful of Each Other?

I remember people laughing 20 years ago when I said that eventually, the USA would more closely resemble Brazil. I guess I had the last laugh, kinda sorta. The Latin Americanization of the USA with the related class stratification, institutional corruption, social conflict, and high rates of violence seems to continue. Latin America has the highest rate of violent crime of any region of the world.

By Kevin Vallier, Wall Street Journal

Social trust, the faith that strangers will abide by established norms, is one of society’s most fundamental building blocks. It underlies economic growth, political consensus and effective law enforcement.

But social trust is difficult to restore once lost, and the U.S. is losing it. According to the General Social Survey and the American National Election Survey, in the early 1970s half of Americans said that most people can be trusted; today that figure is less than one-third. And a recent Pew poll found that social trust declines sharply from generation to generation. In 2018, around 29% of Americans over 65 said that most people can’t be trusted, while 60% of Americans 18 to 29 agree. Recent research suggests that social trust levels harden with age, meaning that trust will continue to fall as trusting generations are replaced by mistrustful ones.


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