Inequality and Governance in Unstable Democracies: The Mediating Role of Trust

This project, which I direct, is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. The project seeks to provide new theoretical insights and empirical evidence on how trust within and between social groups and towards institutions shapes the relationship between economic inequality and governance in contexts where democratic structures may be unstable or under threat. Even though consensus is emerging around the importance of inequality for the quality of institutions, there is limited evidence on how and when inequality affects how societies are governed. The main aim of this project is to explore one key mechanism that mediates the relationship between inequality and governance – trust.

Trust is central to understanding the effects of inequality on governance because the way people have confidence in others and beliefs about the legitimacy of governance institutions shape political and social behaviour and mobilisation patterns among different groups in society. However, these relationships remain under-researched and most of the evidence comes from a handful of developed countries where data are available. This project focuses on a set of countries – Colombia, Mozambique and Pakistan – where democratic institutions have faced considerable challenges, including political violence at times. Comparisons will be made with Spain, a country where democratic governance is well established but where economic pressures in recent times have increased social and political tensions.

Co-investigators include: Laia Balcells (Georgetown University), Tilman Brück (ISDC – International Security and Development Center), Ali Cheema (Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives), Leopoldo Fergusson (Universidad de los Andes, Bogota), Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (University of Essex), Sam Jones (UNU-WIDER) and Stathis Kalyvas (University of Oxford).

Life with Corona

Life with Corona (LwC) is a global research project to collect real-time data on the economic and social impacts of Covid-19. The Covid-19 pandemic affects the daily lives of every single person on Earth – not just those exposed to the virus and front-line workers. How governments respond today will be of crucial importance to how societies, economies and polities will be organised beyond the pandemic. Informed policy-making based on the best available evidence is therefore essential. The main objectives of the Life with Corona project are to: (i) generate global, real-time data on how people around the world are coping with the pandemic, (ii) produce empirical analysis on the impacts of the pandemic, and (iii) support policy actions to address and mitigate the health, economic, social and political effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures to contain it.

This project is led by Tilman Brück (ISDC/IGZ), Anke Hoeffler (University of Konstanz), Wolfgang Stojetz (ISDC) and myself.

Media coverage: The Guardian (UK); Der Spiegel (Germany); Newsweek (USA); Yle (Finland); VRT NWS (Belgium); The Telegraph (UK); The Economist; O Publico (Portugal)

Households in Conflict Network

Tilman Brück, Philip Verwimp and I founded the Households in Conflict Network (HiCN) in 2004. HiCN brings together researchers interested in the micro level analysis of the relationship between violent conflict and household welfare. The purpose of HiCN is to undertake collaborative research into the causes and effects of violent conflict at the household level. See list of affiliates here. The Working Paper series of the Households in Conflict Network is available for free here.

For other recent and past projects see here and here.

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