This paper explores the determinants of social trust, as measured by perceived honesty, in 48 US states across three periods. The results show support for the detrimental effects of income inequality but no or little support for a set of popular alternative theories. The trust decline in recent decades is found to have been a consequence of increasing social polarization and the natural decline of the most trusting age cohorts. Residual trust has increased since the early 1970s, giving rise to markedly different policy implications than those forwarded in most studies in the trust literature.
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