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Abstract

The determinants of change in trust have long been a matter of debate in the social capital literature. An area of particular interest for political scientists has been trust in state institutions because of the possible consequences it could have on democratic life. In an attempt to generalize results, most studies have focused on large cross-sectional samples. However, these studies overlook the context in which citizens and state institutions find themselves. The case study of Mexico presented in this paper attempts to contribute to the literature by emphasizing context over generalizability. The case of Mexican state institutions supports the hypothesis that events that taint an institution for not performing according to its prescribed function lead to sharp declines in trust. Consequently, structural reforms that ensure that institutions recur to their constitutive norm may help increase trust in state institutions. In addition, there is strong evidence indicating that GDP growth causes an increase in trust in state institutions. Therefore, democracies in developing countries may benefit when their economies are performing well.

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