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Keywords:

  • inequality;
  • social capital;
  • trust;
  • civic engagement;
  • public opinion

Although researchers have demonstrated that economic inequality and social capital are inversely related in an aggregate sense across time and space, to date little is known about the relationship between inequality and the socio-economic disparity in social capital outcomes. Using yearly cross-sectional surveys of American twelfth graders fielded during 1976–2009, I show that social capital is strongly related to parental socio-economic status, and that this relationship grows in strength as economic inequality increases. This relationship is confirmed both over time and cross-sectionally. Finally, I argue that, between resource-based and psychological accounts of why this relationship exists, the former appears more promising.