Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Social Capital Waning in America?

Posted on Thursday, November 9, 2006 by 1 comment

Several reports in the media over the past 5-10 years about the decline of social capital in America… decay of community, loss of civic involvement and civility.

Robert D. Putnam made a splash with Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000). In it, he boiled down large sets of data to such sound bites as:

Declining Social Capital Trends over the last 25 years:
-Attending Club Meetings: Down 58%
-Family dinners: Down 33%
-Having friends over: Down 45%
Surprising Facts:
-Joining one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year.
-Ten minutes of commuting reduces social capital by 10%.

The Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America continues this work at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Another compelling study reported that the percentage of Americans with no one in which to confide soared from 10% in 1985 to 25% in 2004. And 25% of U.S. households have only one person in them, vs. 10% in 1950. Isolation appears to be increasing.

Posted in: Community Building

One comment

  1. Michael says:

    Not everyone agrees with the view that social cohesion is unravelling willy nilly. Wikipedia comments about Putnam’s article that preceeded the Bowling Alone book:

    It was not without its critics, however, some of whom argued that Putnam was ignoring new organizations and forms of social capital; others argued that many of the included organizations were responsible for the supression of civil rights movements and the reinforcement of anti-egalitarian social norms. Perhaps the most widely noted observation in the article was the fact that over the last decade and a half, the United States had seen an increase in bowlers but a decrease in bowling leagues.

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