Economic Inequality, Corruption, and Personal Environmental Responsibility in Europe

71 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2020 Last revised: 30 Nov 2020

Date Written: December 1, 2019


Climate change represents a serious challenge to all societies, not least in Europe. For so long the elephant in the room, the scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is now accepted by an overwhelming majority of Europeans. So, how should Europeans address the issue? It is argued that personal environmental responsibility (PER)—a sense of personal obligation toward the environment and individual accountability for environmental outcomes—is an important factor in facilitating the collective action required to address climate change. Using data from the European Social Survey, a cross-country multilevel regression analysis and structural equation modelling were performed to explore various factors that influence PER. The results indicate that economic inequality and corruption are significant predictors of PER in Europe and that social trust plays a significant mediating role in these relationships. These findings are a useful addition to the body of empirical evidence that should be utilised by European policy makers to help formulate effective pro-environmental approaches at all levels. In addition, they provoke further discussion of the importance of personal responsibility within large-scale collective action problems.

Keywords: Economic inequality, corruption, social trust, responsibility, collective action, environment, climate change

Suggested Citation

Davis, Ryan, Economic Inequality, Corruption, and Personal Environmental Responsibility in Europe (December 1, 2019). CeCAR Working Paper Series No. 6, Available at SSRN: or

Ryan Davis (Contact Author)

Gothenburg University


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