Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Erin Ruel

Second Advisor

Heying Jenny Zhan

Third Advisor

Deirdre Oakley


This study explores the interplay between affluence and interpersonal trust in the United States. While existing research often focuses on the impoverished, this investigation shifts the lens to the affluent, shedding light on how affluence affects interpersonal trust dynamics.

Using qualitative methods, we conducted 15 in-depth interviews with affluent individuals and their family members. Three key findings emerged:

Trust Discrepancy: Participants claimed to trust others, but their behaviors suggested hesitancy in trust-dependent activities like sharing secrets or loaning money.

Affluent Upbringing and Lower Trust: Those raised in affluent households reported lower trust levels compared to others.

Reluctance to Discuss Finances: Affluent individuals hesitated to discuss financial matters within their families, possibly linked to economic inequality implications.

In summary, affluence appears to negatively impact interpersonal trust, extending beyond personal relationships to societal consequences. This research informs discussions on income inequality by shifting the focus to the accountability of the affluent and offers insights into the affluent's experiences and behaviors. Understanding these dynamics can guide policies and interventions toward a more equitable and trusting society.


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