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Understanding the Decline in Social Capital, 1952-1998

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  • Dora L. Costa
  • Matthew E. Kahn

Abstract

We evaluate trends in social capital since 1952 and assess explanations for the observed declines. We examine both social capital centered in the community and in the home and argue that the decline in social capital has been over-stated. Controlling for education, there have been small declines in the probability of volunteering, larger declines in group membership, and still larger declines in the probability of entertaining since the 1970s. There have been no declines in the probability of spending frequent evenings with friends or relatives, but there have been decreases in daily visits with friends or relatives. Rising community heterogeneity (particularly income inequality) explains the fall in social capital produced outside the home whereas the rise in women's labor force participation rates explains the decline in social capital produced within the home.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8295.

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Date of creation: May 2001
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Publication status: published as Costa, Dora L. and Matthew E. Kahn. "Understanding The American Decline In Social Capital, 1952-1998," Kyklos, 2003, v56(1), 17-46.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8295

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