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How Immigration Reduced Social Capital in the US: 2005-2011

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  • Freire, Tiago
  • Li, Xiaoye

Abstract

Putnam (1995)'s seminal work was one of the first to describe the decline of social capital in the US after the 1960s, a period that saw a large increase in the flow of immigrants into the US. Using the Volunteer Supplement of the September Sample of the Current Population Survey (CPS) between 2004 and 2011, we examine the relationship between immigration and social capital in the US, measured by membership of organizations, volunteering and hours volunteered. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper to address this question. Once we correct for immigrants' self-selection to different destinations using a supply-push instrumental variable, we find that a one standard deviation increase in the number of immigrants decreases volunteering by 0.08 to 0.12 standard deviations, or that the 8.7 million legal immigrants who entered the US between 2005 and 2011 reduced the probability Americans volunteered between 27.8% and 35.7%. From our robustness checks we argue that the reduction in volunteering by natives is driven by the the fact that new immigrants have a lower social capital, reducing the benefits of volunteering. Our results have important implications for public policy. We show that migrants' social capital has an impact on receiving communities. Therefore immigrants' social capital (such as having relatives living at the receiving community) should be taken into consideration. Future research should focus on what is the optimal weight to give to the presence of family members versus, for instance, educational level of the immigrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Freire, Tiago & Li, Xiaoye, 2013. "How Immigration Reduced Social Capital in the US: 2005-2011," MPRA Paper 44540, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:44540
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bracco, E. & De Paola, M. & Green, C.P., 2015. "Long lasting differences in civic capital: Evidence from a unique immigration event in Italy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 160-173.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Migration; Social Capital; Volunteer; Race;

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J79 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Other
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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