Race, alienation, and interpersonal mistrust

Document Type

Journal Article


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date



A structural model is proposed that explains race differences in interpersonal trust as a function of blacks’ disadvantaged position vis à vis whites in the socioeconomic opportunity structure. This disadvantage, in turn, engenders a sense of alienation that is detrimental to the development of trustin the “generalized other.” Data basedon the 1991 General Social Survey were largely supportive of the model. Compared with whites, blacks appear to be more alienated and less trusting of others. Although race differences in alienation and trust are partially accounted for by the proposed intervening variables, blacks are still significantly more alienated and less trusting than whites even after socioeconomic status is held constant.