Historical Traumas and the Roots of Political Distrust: Political Inference from the Great Chinese Famine
84 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2015 Last revised: 19 Jan 2016
Date Written: December 20, 2015
What shapes citizens’ trust in the government, and what makes it persist over time? We study the causal effect of the Great Chinese Famine (1958-1961) on the survivors’ political distrust. Using a novel nationally representative survey, we employ a difference-in-differences framework to compare citizens who were exposed to the Famine versus those who were not, across regions with differential levels of drought during the Famine. The Famine survivors inferred the government’s liability from personal hunger experiences, and they were more likely to blame the government for their starvation in regions with usual rainfall during the Famine. As a result, these citizens exhibit significantly less trust in the local government. The dampened political trust persists even half a century after the Famine, and it has been transmitted to the subsequent generation. We provide suggestive evidence on the mechanisms that foster such persistence.
Keywords: Political Trust, Political Attitudes, China, Authoritarian Regime, Persistence
JEL Classification: D83, P26, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation