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Research Archive

November 13, 2023

Family’s Place in America’s Social Fabric

The family is arguably the most basic building block of community life.[i] But even as Americans continue to say their own families are centrally important in their lives[ii], family life in the United States more broadly has changed dramatically in recent decades. At the same time, adults are finding satisfaction in their relationships with friends…

November 8, 2023

Measuring the Geography of Social Networks

Social interactions shape social and economic activity across a range of domains, from migration and trade flows to job search and investment behaviors. However, quantifying the effects of social interactions has traditionally been complicated by the absence of large-scale representative data on social networks. Over the past years, we have worked with deidentified data on…

November 1, 2023

The Ultimate Social Capital: A Story to Save the Union

The American Republic is on the brink; a revived civic national story can help us all come together to pull ourselves back from the abyss That the bonds holding the United States have been weakening has been obvious for more than a decade now, a phenomenon this research series has been probing in regards to…

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.)…

July 17, 2023

What the Rise in Dog Attacks Signals About the State of America’s Social Capital

If you have ever had the unfortunate experience of being attacked or bitten by a dog, you’re not alone. The one time it happened to me was while walking at night in a park near my apartment. It was dark and difficult to see; I was not paying much attention and was probably staring at…

July 12, 2023

Local News and Social Capital

Joseph Schumpeter famously observed that capitalism unleashed “creative destruction.”[i] If that is so for American journalism, just such a wave has, without doubt, been destroying local newspapers. What’s not yet clear is whether such destruction will be complemented by creation. The result matters not just as it affects a select group of business enterprises. Arguably, local…

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…