Civic Community in Small-Town America: How Civic Welfare is Influenced by Local Capitalism and Civic Engagement
The aims of this paper are twofold: first, to gain a fuller understanding of factors that foster community cohesion and contribute to the residents’ social and economic well-being; and, second, to move beyond previous research that used larger spatial units such as states, counties, or aggregates of counties and to focus instead on American small towns (population 2,500-20,000). The data on small towns are drawn from public-use files and from confidential microdata from various economic censuses. From these sources we construct measures of locally oriented firms, self-employment, business establishments that serve as gathering places, and associations. The local capitalism and civic engagement variables generally perform as hypothesized; in some cases they are related quite strongly to civic welfare outcomes such as income levels, poverty rates, and nonmigration rates. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of working with place-level data and suggest some strategies for subsequent work on small towns and other incorporated places.
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