Social Trust Is Lower Than You Think

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A number of researchers have shown that social trust has been in a long and steady tailspin. One recent AP-Gfk poll found that “only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted.” But the problem might be worse than many believe, and when I recently looked at trust by state from the advertising firm DDB Worldwide Communications Group, I found that in some states the percent of people who reported complete levels of trust was basically zero. Political scientists have documented all sorts of reasons for the recent collapse in social cohesion. Some like Eric Uslaner blame economic inequality. … Read More

The Simple Power of Tit for Tat


Why do we work with others? In many ways, the answer is simple. It’s about reciprocity. I do something for you. You do something for me, and often one of the easiest ways to build up faith in someone else is to exchange favors, to engage in reciprocity. Think, for instance, about how you might become friends with the accountant at work. First, you might swing past his or her desk to talk about how hot its been outside. Then perhaps that accountant comes past to talk to you about the new CEO. Then you invite the accountant out for coffee … Read More

Educational Equity and Effectiveness


School finance reformers have long been divided into two camps. On one side, there are the advocates who argue for increased fiscal equity. They believe the primary issue concerning school finance is funding fairness and point to an abundance of evidence that shows high-poverty districts with needier students receive far less money than their wealthier counterparts.   On the other side of the debate are those who argue for increased fiscal efficiency. These advocates believe that school districts do not do nearly enough with the dollars they have. Stanford University’s Eric A. Hanushek—seen as the intellectual grandfather of this camp—put … Read More

Why Trust Matters: The Moral of the “Eye-Poking” Capuchin Monkey


When political scientists talk about the importance of trust, they often reach for the literary stars. They pull out the big metaphors. They add some purple to their prose. Researcher Eric Uslaner once called social trust the “chicken soup” of social life. Sociologist Pamela Paxton has argued that trust is “the magic ingredient that makes social life possible.” One German academic was Teutonically blunt, declaring that “a complete absence of trust would prevent [one] even getting up in the morning.” Despite the florid writing—and the extensive research behind the basic idea—we continue to undervalue the importance of trust. We don’t do enough to support our faith in others. I have a … Read More

Take The Bite Out Of Crime: Why Our Nation’s Needs To Get Smart About Criminal Justice


Quick question: Does the nation have a crime problem? If you think the answer is yes, you would be in some very good—and very fearful—company. According to one recent poll, 74 percent of Americans believed that crime has gotten worse over the past year. But that perception is not vaguely accurate. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Violent crime has been steadily declining for years, and the murder rate in the United States is about the same as it was in the 1960s. In fact, according to the FBI, some crimes like car theft have dropped over 18 percent … Read More