Social Capital Over Time and Across Generations: A Data-Driven Learning Guide
Goal & Concept
Following from Robert Putnam's work, this exercise explores time and generational trends in measures of social capital from 1972 to 2004. Crosstabulation and comparison of means are used.
The term social capital is used to refer to connections among people and organizations. These social networks have important implications for social identity, emotional support, as well as the exchange of goods, services, and information.
In his influential book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community(2000), Robert Putnam identified seven dimensions of social capital (political participation, civic participation, religious participation, workplace networks, informal networks, mutual trust, and altruism), and showed that there are two distinct, though not necessarily mutually exclusive, types of social capital: bridging social capital (inclusive, outward-looking social networks), and bonding social capital (exclusive, inward-looking social networks). In addition Putnam explored changes in social capital over the 20th century, demonstrating that social capital increased between 1900 and the 1960s, then decreased dramatically as a result of pressures of time and money, mobility and sprawl, television, and generational differences.
This exercise uses several dimensions of social capital (political, civic and religious participation; informal networks; mutual trust; and altruism) to explore the time and generational trends that Putnam described in his book.
Examples of research questions about social capital:
- What factors account for changes in social capital over time?
- What are the consequences of high/low levels of social capital?
- Under what conditions might high levels of social capital be detrimental, and low levels of social capital beneficial?
- Have all dimensions of social capital evolved similarly over time?
- Do factors such as race, gender, and social class influence how much and what kind of social capital groups have?
CITATION: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. Social Capital Over Time and Across Generations: A Data-Driven Learning Guide. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-04-16. Doi:10.3886/socialcapital
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.