Qual Quant (2013) 47:3603–3608
Trust and corruption revisited: how and why trust
and corruption shape each other
Eric M. Uslaner
Published online: 20 July 2012
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Abstract Graeff and Svendsen argue that low trust leads to corruption but corruption does
not lower trust. I challenge this argumentas well as their critique of Uslaner. I present evidence
to show that there is a reciprocal relationship between trust and corruption.
Keywords Trust · Corruption · Social capital · Inequality
Does trust lead to less corruption? Does corruption lead to less trust? I argue in Uslaner (2002,
2008) that the path goes both ways—from low levels of trust to high rates of corruption—and
then back to less trust. Graeff and Svendsen (2012) say “no”—low trust may lead to high
levels of corruption, but there is no “reverse” causality of corruption on trust.
I argue here that the Graeff and Svendsen (2012) criticism of my work is misplaced. Some
comments are vague and not supported. But most critically, Graeff and Svendsen do not con-
sider my more recent book (Uslaner 2008), in which I present a more elaboraste argument
about the mutual interactions of trust and corruption—and provide strong evidence, both
from aggregate and survey data, that there is indeed a reciprocal relationship between the
two, using a much larger data base than either I do in Uslaner (2002) or they do.
I ﬁrst present a brief outline of my theoretical argument and then move to a consideration
of the charges by Graeff and Svendsen (2012). Finally, I summarize the more extensive results
showing strong linkages between trust and corruption in Uslaner (2008).
E. M. Uslaner (
Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-7211, USA
E. M. Uslaner
Center for American Political Science and Law, Southwest University of Political Science and Law,
E. M. Uslaner
Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark