IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Surfing Alone? The Internet and Social Capital: Evidence from an Unforeseeable Technological Mistake

  • Bauernschuster, Stefan


    (Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

  • Falck, Oliver


    (Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

  • Woessmann, Ludger


    (Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Does the Internet undermine social capital or facilitate inter-personal and civic engagement in the real world? Merging unique telecommunication data with geo-coded German individual-level data, we investigate how broadband Internet affects several dimensions of social capital. One identification strategy uses panel information to estimate value-added models. A second exploits a quasi-experiment in East Germany created by a mistaken technology choice of the state-owned telecommunication provider in the 1990s that still hinders broadband Internet access for many households. We find no evidence that the Internet reduces social capital. For some measures including children's social activities, we even find significant positive effects.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5747.

in new window

Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: May 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Public Economics, 2014, 117, 73-89
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5747
Contact details of provider: Postal:
IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Thierry Pénard & Nicolas Poussing, 2010. "Internet use and social capital: The strength of virtual ties," Post-Print halshs-00489752, HAL.
  2. Claudio Michelacci & Olmo Silva, 2007. "Why So Many Local Entrepreneurs?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-633, November.
  3. Rosenblat, Tanya & Mobius, Markus, 2010. "Getting Closer or Drifting Apart?," Staff General Research Papers Archive 32113, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser & David Laibson & Bruce Sacerdote, 2002. "An Economic Approach to Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 437-458, November.
  5. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2010. "Ideological Segregation Online and Offline," NBER Working Papers 15916, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Tanya S. Rosenblat & Markus M. Mobius, 2004. "Getting Closer or Drifting Apart?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 971-1009.
  7. Bhuller, Manudeep & Havnes, Tarjei & Leuven, Edwin & Mogstad, Magne, 2011. "Broadband Internet: An Information Superhighway to Sex Crime?," IZA Discussion Papers 5675, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Jeffrey R Kling & Jeffrey B Liebman & Lawrence F Katz, 2007. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 83-119, 01.
  9. Moulton, Brent R., 1986. "Random group effects and the precision of regression estimates," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 385-397, August.
  10. Falck, Oliver & Gold, Robert & Heblich, Stephan, 2012. "E-Lections: Voting Behavior and the Internet," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2012-07, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
  11. Betsey Stevenson, 2008. "The Internet and Job Search," NBER Working Papers 13886, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. repec:pri:indrel:455 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Benjamin A. Olken, 2006. "Do Television and Radio Destroy Social Capital? Evidence from Indonesian Villages," Working Papers id:642, eSocialSciences.
  14. Hal R. Varian, 2010. "Computer Mediated Transactions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 1-10, May.
  15. Joel Sobel, 2002. "Can We Trust Social Capital?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 139-154, March.
  16. Robert W. Fairlie, 2006. "The Personal Computer and Entrepreneurship," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(2), pages 187-203, February.
  17. Durlauf,S.N. & Fafchamps,M., 2004. "Social capital," Working papers 12, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    • Durlauf, Steven N. & Fafchamps, Marcel, 2005. "Social Capital," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 26, pages 1639-1699 Elsevier.
  18. Patrick Bayer & Stephen L. Ross & Giorgio Topa, 2005. "Place of Work and Place of Residence: Informal Hiring Networks and Labor Market Outcomes," Working Papers 927, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  19. John McMillan & Christopher Woodruff, 1999. "Interfirm Relationships and Informal Credit in Vietnam," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1285-1320.
  20. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972.
  21. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 2001. "Instrumental Variables and the Search for Identification: From Supply and Demand to Natural Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 69-85, Fall.
  22. Nina Czernich & Oliver Falck & Tobias Kretschmer & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Broadband Infrastructure and Economic Growth," CESifo Working Paper Series 2861, CESifo Group Munich.
  23. Marcel Fafchamps, 2005. "Development and Social Capital," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-007, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  24. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2000. "The Role of Social Capital in Financial Development," CRSP working papers 511, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  25. Stefan Bauernschuster & Oliver Falck & Ludger Woessmann, 2011. "Surfing Alone? The Internet and Social Capital: Evidence from an Unforeseeable Technological Mistake," CESifo Working Paper Series 3469, CESifo Group Munich.
  26. Jacob L. Vigdor & Helen F. Ladd & Erika Martinez, 2014. "Scaling The Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology And Student Achievement," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(3), pages 1103-1119, 07.
  27. Ofer Malamud & Cristian Pop-Eleches, 2011. "Home Computer Use and the Development of Human Capital," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 987-1027.
  28. Jonathan Temple & Paul A. Johnson, 1998. "Social Capability and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 965-990.
  29. David Autor, 2000. "Wiring the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 7959, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Stefan Bauernschuster & Oliver Falck & Ludger Wößmann, 2011. "Surfing Alone? The Internet and Social Capital: Evidence from an Unforeseen Technological Mistake," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 392, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  31. Axel Franzen, 2003. "Social Capital and the Internet: Evidence from Swiss Panel Data," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(3), pages 341-360, 08.
  32. Campante, Filipe & Durante, Ruben & Sobbrio, Francesco, 2013. "Politics 2.0: The Multifaceted Effect of Broadband Internet on Political Participation," Working Paper Series rwp13-014, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  33. Chernozhukov, Victor & Hansen, Christian, 2008. "The reduced form: A simple approach to inference with weak instruments," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(1), pages 68-71, July.
  34. repec:fth:prinin:455 is not listed on IDEAS
  35. Gebhardt, Georg, 2010. "The Impact of the Internet on Retail Competition: Evidence from Technological Differences in Internet Access," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 345, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  36. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 2001. "Instrumental Variables and the Search for Identification: From Supply and Demand to Natural Experiments," Working Papers 834, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Economic Logic blog

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5747. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.