Skip to main content

Research Archive

Welcome to Our Research Archive

Search and filter by content type, issue area, author, and keyword

June 18, 2024

Economic Opportunity and Social Mobility

Years ago, I worked at the Pew Charitable Trusts on something called the Economic Mobility Project. In 2009, we commissioned a survey covering opportunity, mobility, and the American Dream. One revealing question we asked was the following: The term American Dream means different things to different people. Here are some ways some people have described…

March 12, 2024

Family Dinners Offer a Silver Lining in a Bleak Social Capital Landscape

Across a variety of indicators, social capital in America is deteriorating. But one trend appears to be cutting across conventional wisdom—gathering the family around the dinner table. Dinners offer an especially valuable chance for family members to come together and share the day’s highs and lows; discuss personal issues, current events, and big questions of…

August 2, 2023

Measuring Social Capital: Can We Tell If Some Places Are Richer in Social Capital Than Others?

The concept of social capital has been inconsistently defined and described.[1]That should not be surprising, given that social capital is intangible and not easily measured. (The same is true of human capital, though researchers have defaulted to measures of educational attainment and test scores, only recently expanding the set of indicators to encompass noncognitive skills.)…

May 4, 2023

The Social Breakdown: The Poverty of Family, Community, and Religious Life in America

On May 4, AEI’s Center on Opportunity and Social Mobility (COSM) hosted the launch of “The Social Breakdown,” a new research series dedicated to the study of social capital. Event Summary The morning began with a keynote address from the Hudson Institute’s William Schambra, who covered AEI’s long history of studying mediating structures and civil…

May 3, 2023

The Mainline Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Social Capitalism

When Alexis de Tocqueville penned his seminal Democracy in America lauding the strength of American communities, institutions, and associations, he noted the unique status of religion. Religion, he wrote, “must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the…

April 28, 2023

Social Capital: What Is It?

Words and phrases, as they say, can do a lot of work. Sometimes, evocative terms can be useful even if they paper over imprecise concepts or obscure definitional disagreement. But vagueness often overwhelms the utility of an idea, as, for instance, with the term “systemic racism.” Imprecision can be a feature but also a bug….

April 18, 2023

Introduction to The Social Breakdown

“Social capital” is an esoteric and often loosely defined concept, yet it captures a deep-seated intuition and shared sensibility among virtually all Americans: Our relationships have value, and what we do together matters. Social capital derives from our participation in—and belonging to—society’s “middle layers.” These middle layers are the myriad institutions, associations, and communities between…