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Golfing with Trump. Social capital, decline, inequality, and the rise of populism in the US

Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Neil Lee and Cornelius Lipp

LSE Research Online Documents on Economics from London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library

Abstract: In 2000, Robert Putnam forecast that United States (US) democracy was at risk from the twin challenges of declining civic engagement and rising interpersonal inequality. Sixteen years later, his predictions were vindicated by the election of Donald Trump as president of the US. This paper analyses the extent to which the 2016 election of Donald Trump—and his failed re-election bid in 2020—have been related to levels of social capital and interpersonal inequalities. We posit an alternative: that the rise in votes for Trump has been the result of long-term economic and population decline in areas with strong social capital. This hypothesis is confirmed by the econometric analysis conducted for US counties. Long-term declines in employment and population—rather than in earnings, salaries, or wages—in places with relatively strong social capital propelled Donald Trump to the presidency and almost secured his re-election. By contrast, low social capital and high interpersonal inequality were not connected to a surge in support for Trump. These results are robust to the introduction of control variables and different inequality measures. The analysis also shows that the discontent at the base of the Trump margin is not just a consequence of the 2008 crisis but had been brewing for a long time. Places in the US that remained cohesive but witnessed an enduring decline are no longer bowling alone, they have golfed with Trump and will, in all likelihood, continue to golf with Trumpism or other forms of populism.

Keywords: populism; social capital; inequality; economic and demographic decline; Donald Trump; USA; 724363; OUP deal (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D31 D72 O15 R11 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 25 pages
Date: 2021-11-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-pol and nep-soc
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (3)

Published in Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 1, November, 2021, 14(3), pp. 457 – 481. ISSN: 1752-1378

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Related works:
Journal Article: Golfing with Trump. Social capital, decline, inequality, and the rise of populism in the US (2021) Downloads
Working Paper: Golfing with Trump. Social capital, decline, inequality, and the rise of populism in the US (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: GOLFING WITH TRUMP: Social capital, decline, inequality, and the rise of populism in the US (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Golfing with Trump: social capital, decline, inequality, and the rise of populism in the US (2020) Downloads
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