709 Gladfelter Hall
- PhD, Washington Univ, St. Louis.
- MA, Washington Univ
- MSW, Washington Univ
- BA, Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, Dominican Republic
areas of expertise
- Political Sociology
- Latin American Studies
courses i teach
- Political Sociology
- Development in Latin America
- Politics of Identity
links i like
I studied sociology because I believe in the power of ideas to improve the world in which we live. My main academic interest is in the study of politics: how political regimes are established, why they change, how governments rule, and how social actors shape the political process. Sociology has given me the analytical tools and insight to study these issues and the skills to participate in the solutions of social problems.
My region of expertise is Latin America and I have written extensively on politics and society in the Dominican Republic. My most recent academic articles are the product of collaborative research based on political culture surveys.
The article, "Performance Still Matters," helps to clarify the factors shaping trust in government institutions in an emerging democracy like the Dominican Republic. We show that trust in government institutions is shaped primarily by perceptions of government performance, including citizens' evaluation of public services, the economic environment, and perceptions of insecurity and corruption. The results indicate that low trust in government is rooted primarily in those perceptions, rather than in low civic engagement, general attitudes about democracy or early socialization under authoritarianism. We found that middle-class groups are significantly less trusting of government institutions than the poor or the wealthy, and that the older generations that experienced authoritarianism in their youth are considerably more trusting of democratic institutions than the younger generations. The results also indicate that low trust per se is not the major challenge for governance, since high levels of skepticism in government institutions may be driven more by perceptions of poor government performance than by a sweeping rejection of democratic institutions.
Beyond my academic work, I write Op Ed articles for two major newspapers in the Dominican Republic. This allows me to translate my academic research to the general public, including politicians, policy-makers and students.
Espinal, R with J. Hartlyn and J. Morgan. 2008. "Gender Politics in the Dominican Republic: Advances for Women, Ambivalence from Men." Politics & Gender, 4.
Espinal, R with J. Hartlyn and J. Morgan. 2006. "Performance Still Matters: Explaining Trust in Government Institutions in the Dominican Republic." Comparative Political Studies, Vol.39, No.2.
Espinal, R. 2006. Democracia Epileptica en la Sociedad del Clic. Editora Clave, Santo Domingo.
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