The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that trust and a more equal society go together.
The OECD study found that people living in countries where there is less income inequality trust their family human beings a lot more. The reasons for this are unclear but there might be some very good reasons, says the OECD. "In countries with high inequality, people trust less than in the more egalitarian Nordic countries. The reasons for the association are unclear. Income inequality may make it more difficult for people in different strata to share a sense of common purpose and to trust each other. Or low levels of trust may impede positive social bonds developing, which in turn contributes to high inequality,'' says the OECD.
The study found that there is a correlation between high trust and high income levels. But significantly, levels of trust have crashed in the world's richest country, the United States. That's not surprising given that income inequality in America has reached its worst ever levels.
As Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says in this piece , the upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation's income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. "Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe,'' Stiglitz says. " He warns that it's a recipe for the upheaval we have seen in places like Egypt and Tunisia where people took to the streets and toppled governments because of rising food prices and high unemployment. "The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn't seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late,'' Stigliz says.
The collapse in trust in America is a warning sign.