Kennedy School Saguaro Seminar


Saguaro and Univ. of Manchester through SCHMi (Social Change: a Harvard-Manchester initiative) project release Age Of Obama report comparing the social consequences of diversity in US and UK. They conclude that broad generational long increases in tolerance make black prime minister in UK possible, but fewer black candidates in UK and more centralized party recruitment could serve as damper on pace of a black British Obama. See press release here, BBC interview with Robert Putnam, Guardian lead story , Guardian in-depth story, and Guardian editorial. [And see Social Capital Blog post.]

Professor Robert D. Putnam conducts sweeping interview with The American Interest magazine discussing everything from national service to diversity and social cohesion to how society needs to grapple with the social consequences of the massive movement of women from kitchens to offices to the decline of unstructured time for youth games. Read the Jan-Feb. 2008 interview here.

Xav Briggs publishes "Some of my best friends are..." 12-07 in City & Community using Social Capital Benchmark survey. NPR did a story on this research, available here.

NY Times Op-Ed (11/12/07) highlights import of social capital as a happiness-enhancing strategy: "While the extra happiness derived from a raise or a winning lottery ticket might be fleeting, studies have found that the happiness people derive from free time or social interaction is less susceptible to comparisons with other people around them. Nonmonetary rewards ­ like more vacations, or more time with friends or family ­ are likely to produce more lasting changes in satisfaction. … [I]f the object of public policy is to maximize society’s well-being, more attention should be placed on fostering social interactions and less on accumulating wealth." See full article "All They Are Saying Is Give Happiness A Chance" (Eduardo Porter)

Capital Ideas (Guardian, 7/18/07, by Madeleine Bunting) about the Harvard-Manchester collaboration on social change.

Stephen Post and Jill Neimark have written a popular book on the health benefits of volunteering and doing good to others called Why Good Things Happen to Good People (2007) . More information available from their web site.

Full Disclosure New book by KSG colleagues Archon Fung, Mary Graham and David Weil highlights when information transparency useful and links with issue of social capital and civic activism. Fung et al observe the increasing role of the Internet in decentralizing the purveyors of data that holds other accountable like or ISawYourNanny or YouTube videos showing rats in a Connecticut KFC outlet. They predict a world in 3-5 years where one can point a cellphone at a product and get information on whether it is good or bad for global warming, whether it was produced using child labor, etc. and user will be able to filter what issues he/she wants information about. They also talk about issues like Wikis where parents can collectively gather user-supplied information on things like the qualities of their school.

GOVERNMENT MEASUREMENT OF SOCIAL CAPITAL ITEMS: Thanks to the Corporation for National & Community Service's (CNCS) leadership under Robert Grimm, the government begin measuring social capital on the Nov. 2006 Current Population Survey (CPS, the largest non-Census government survey, used to determine monthly unemployment rates, surveys 60,000 American households; the respondents also answer on behalf of other adult and young adults living in their home generating 100,000 responses).
:: The Corporation for National Service issued state-by-state results for volunteering and civic life in April 2007 in a report called Volunteering in America: 2007 State Trends and Rankings in Civic Life. A press release on this report is available here. The report also revealed that one out of every three volunteers is not volunteering a year later and highlighted tools to increase volunteer retention.
Social capital questions asked by the government include: attendance at public meetings, working with others in neighborhood to fix or improve something, volunteering and voting. These questions are asked annually in the September CPS (volunteering, neighborhood fixing/improving and public meeting attendance) and November CPS supplement (voting).
:: Data from 2006 should be generally available in the Spring of 2007.
:: In July 2007, CNS will issue volunteering data from CPS for significant metropolitan areas across the United States.

1) 2007 CIRCLE REPORT CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AMONG YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN discusses youth volunteering and voting trends.
: The report has interesting Figures 4-6 that show trends in high school volunteering rates since 1975 (Monitoring the Future data). Figure 4 shows a clear increase in high school senior boys and girls volunteering over the last 16 years: increases of roughly 10 percentage points (and 14-16%). But Figures 5 and 6, over roughly the same period , are flat to declining among 8th grade and 10th grade boys and only very modestly increasing among 10th grade girls. This suggests that most of the increase in youth volunteering may be driven by high school graduation requirements or by seniors burnishing their resumes for college. Nevertheless, this is likely still positive news for the future since youth who volunteer in high school are more likely to volunteer throughout their lives.
CIRCLE's 2006 Civic and Political Health of the Nation Survey (N=2200) shows young men are more likely than women to pay attention to news and engage in a wider range of political activities, but women are more likely to volunteer and vote.

2) The March 10, 2007 National Journal has a cover article Generation 'We' about the increase in political interest and voting among 18-24 year olds. And a graphic on the jump in youth turnout shows how the biggest increases in voting rates were among 18-21 year-olds.

3) " 9-11 GENERATION" TREND CONTINUES: American College Freshman Survey 2006 (UCLA, Higher Education Research Institute) finds student political interest at 41 year high. "More freshmen report that they discussed politics frequently as high-school seniors, moving up 8.3 percentage points to 33.8 percent in 2006 from 25.5 percent in 2004, the last time this question was asked." And students are becoming more politically polarized: fewer consider themselves moderate and increased numbers consider themselves Conservative or Liberal. The 2006 ACF Survey also looks at how diverse students' high schools and neighborhoods were in comparison to the racial diversity at their college. Read findings here or see summary Powerpoint presentation.

4) INCREASE IN YOUTH NARCISSISM? And contrary to these above 4 reports, this study, involving 5 researchers, analyzed Narcissistic Personality Inventory surveys over the last 25 years and found increases in Gen Y narcissism. The study has not yet been accepted by an academic journal but is under review. See L.A. Times story, Gen Y's ego trip takes a nasty turn (2/27/07). Unpublished paper on study available here.

2006 PEW SOCIAL TRUST SURVEY. Pew Social Trust Survey ''Americans and Social Trust: Who, Where and Why' Executive Summary available here. And the full report is available here.
They found that rural Americans, richer Americans, older Americans and white Americans were all more trusting. Gender, political ideology and religiosity or religious traditions did not affect trust.
They misreport that trends in social trust are consistent across the last 4 decades. in fact, social trust has dropped by about a third since 1972 in the GSS and the NES which asked this question back to 1964 also suggests a deeper fall in trust. (The 2006 Pew survey shows significantly higher trust than the 2004 NES survey, but different survey firms notoriously produce different results, so called 'house effects' , which is why serious social scientists only compare surveys done across time on the SAME survey by the SAME survey firm.). All the surveying Saguaro has done do not show noticeable increases in trust over the last 2 years.

2006 CASE FOUNDATION REPORT Citizens at the Center: A New Approach to Civic Engagement. Report suggests that youth volunteering may be rising not as sign of deeper civic engagement, but as an effort to try to gain some sense of control over their life. Presents evidence that many feel that things are spiraling out of control, and that there is little connection between citizens and public institutions and leaders. You can hear interviews of experts consulted in drafting the report here.

PUTNAM ON IRAQ PROTESTS: Robert D. Putnam explained on NPR Weekend Edition that the Iraq war is drawing smaller numbers and having less effect because fewer Americans feel at risk without a national draft, because fewer Americans feel confident that protests will bring change and because Americans participate more in one-shot demonstrations that only rarely have impact.

2007 U.S. STATISTICAL ABSTRACT: The 2007 Statistical Abstract for the U.S. reports that the average American spends nearly 2 months a year watching television (64 days) although the mix is changing: more time spent annually watching cable and satellite TV (877 hours) and less time with broadcast TV (678 hours). Read Who Americans Are And What They Do In Census Data: Fatter, Taller and Thirstier Americans (NYT, 12/15/06, p. 27, Sam Roberts) quotes Saguaro's Robert D. Putnam. Americans in 2007 spend nearly 10 hours a day in activities that are often socially isolated: watching television, surfing the Internet, reading books, newspapers and magazines and listening to music. Internet usage surpassed time spent reading newspapers for the first time ever. The answer to how Americans spend 10 hours a day on the media and still have time for work, eating, sleep is one word: multitasking (they are often engaging in several media at a time). [Note: newspaper readership strongly predicts civic engagement while broadcast television viewing negatively predicts it.]

[back to Home page]

BIPARTISANSHIP IN 2007 CONGRESS?: Democrats, despite earlier pledging new bipartisan tone, allowed no Republican input on their first 100 Day legislation. That said, many of the underlying bills passed with significant bipartisan support (including bills on minimum wage, implementing the 9-11 Commission recommendations,cutting interest rates on student loans, increasing goverment accountability, and reducing subsidies to the oil industry).
Washington Post, L.A. Times and Washington Post editorial A Fairer House: But Not Quite Yet (1/3/06) criticized the Democratic plans not to permit more Republican input into the legislation..

THE NEW YORK TIMES YEAR IN IDEAS 2006: The year-end list has a number of ideas relating to social capital or civic engagement. Among them are:
Ballot That Is Also A Lottery Ticket
(an unsuccessful Arizona ballot referendum effort to make all voters eligible for a $1,000,000 lottery, paid for by unclaimed lottery winnings);
The Eyes of Honesty
(that summarizes research showing that people behave more trustworthy when there are pictures of eyes around, which might in turn increase interpersonal trust, even if it makes us feel like we are living in *1984*);
(the tendency of people to socialize with others like them, and the interesting idea that Facebook should add a feature called 'The Stretch' to encourage individuals to build more bridging social capital);
(the watching of authorities from below, which might help to restore trust of governmental officials);
Voting-Booth Feng Shui
(research suggesting that where you vote influences the votes cast, e.g. voters support educational initiatives more when they vote in schools);
Web-based Microfinancing
(which highlights Internet technology that enables say a Kansas schoolteacher to become a microfinancer for seamstresses in developing countries; Saguaro note: while the sites provide pictures of the entrepreneurs it is unclear whether loan repayment efforts will be nearly as high when not embedded in existing local social networks where there would be a high reputational risk from any entrepreneur defaulting on a loan);
Workplace Rumors Are True
(summarizing research that suggests that workplace rumors are substantially true since social networks are dense enough to scuttle inaccurate rumors).

[back to Home page]

NEW CITIZENSHIP TEST BEING PILOTED: The test aims to reduce focus on memorizing facts and increase focus on American civic values. So instead of asking how many branches of government, the test asks why we have multiple branches of government. The exam is being piloted and assessed in ten cities in 2007. ' 'Our goal is to inspire immigrants to learn about the civic values of this nation so that after they take the oath of citizenship they will participate fully in our great democracy,'' said Emilio Gonzalez, director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has been working since 2000 to develop a new test. They have a list of the 144 questions and a NYT article about the new test appears here. [The existing 96 questions can be found here.]

[back to Home page]

HARVARD-MANCHESTER PROJECT: The Saguaro Seminar and Robert D. Putnam are leading up a multi-year joint project between Harvard University and The University of Manchester (UK) to focus on social change, and examine social issues in a transatlantic light. See press release and Guardian story.
Chronicle of Higher Education story on the collaboration
The University of Manchester will be launching a website for this collaboration but it is not up-and-running yet.
Hear Robert D. Putnam's interview on BBC Today about the Manchester collaboration and Saguaro research (10/6/06)
The Times Higher Education Supplement's How to land a bowling trophy (10/27/06, Stephen Phillips) was generally accurate but flawed by a breezy lead-in claiming that Prof. Putnam felt like an Easter Island head in a global-head hunting expedition. Prof. Putnam said no such thing to Stephen Phillips and had nothing but admiration for how sensitively and professionally the Univ. of Manchester conducted itself in negotiations.

[back to Home page]

We've created a separate page on our diversity research, available here.

SKYTTE PRIZE: Saguaro's Robert D. Putnam was awarded the 2006 Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science in Uppsala, Sweden, on Sept. 30. Many consider the prize to be the world's highest accolade in political science. [See full press release here.]

[back to Home page]

:: Arthur Brooks in Charitable Explanation (WSJ Op-Ed 11/27/06), uses Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey data, to show how religiosity drives charitable giving.

:: Culminating piece in the NYT 10-part investigation into Class in America ['Class Matters'] talks about how social capital and human capital are essential to class mobility.

TRENDS IN U.S. VOLUNTEERING, 1974-2005 (report issued by The Corporation for National and Community Service, using governmental data). To read more, see: The Washington Post's story , the full CNCS report, a fact sheet, or their press release.
Key findings include:
The 2005 adult volunteering rate has declined from 1974 but the current rate (27%) is at its highest since 1989 when it was 20.4% – a 32% increase since 1989.
The growth in volunteering has been fueled exclusively by three age groups: older teenagers (ages 16-19), mid-life adults (45-64), and older adults (65+).
Teenager volunteering (ages 16-19) more than doubled since 1989.
For other results read the full CNCS report

[back to Home page]

THOMAS FRIEDMAN COLUMN, The Taxi Driver (NYT, 11/1/06) poignantly conveys how technology is drawing us apart. Friedman recounts a recent ride with a young, French-speaking African driver, who Friedman thinks he would have learned something from, but despite spending an hour together, they never exchanged words, with Friedman working on his column and listening to iPod, and taxi driver watching video, talking on his bluetooth cellphone. His article is about being in one place physically but another place psychologically.

[back to Home page]

MICROLENDING AND 2006 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FOR YUNUS: Mohammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. They pioneered microlending, that uses social capital and social sanctions among poor villager lending circles in developing countries to achieve remarkably low loan default rates (1% or so) despite the villagers being poor credit risks.
For a very interesting article on microlending and splits within the field -- whether microlending should be just about lending or other social training, about whether loans should be to the poorest or the poor, and between for-profit and non-profit microlending -- read Millions for Millions (New Yorker, 10/30/06, by Connie Bruck). Practitioners argue about whether the for-profit model will reach more villagers or shun less profitable segments of society (like Yunus' cross-subsidization of loans to beggars from returns made on village lending circles).

[back to Home page]

CIRCLE found evidence of increased youth turnout in the 2006 mid-term election. See their report on youth turnout here and an article on this in Washington Post. [Young Voter Strategies also found similar things from exit polls.]
Curtis Gans of the non-partisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University estimates that overall voter turnout appeared to be slightly higher than last mid-term election (around 40%). Full report available here.
Key findings: Preliminary numbers showed a new record high midterm turnout in Virginia and increased turnout in Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Connecticut, Delaware and Kentucky, and Montana, but decreased turnout in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and likely Hawaii.
Gans said it does not signal a new spirit of civic engagement, but instead " reflects anger and fear related directly to Bush and the Iraq war.... It comes in spite of underlying problems that had depressed turnout during recent decades."
"A preliminary analysis showed turnout down in some states and up in others - notably up in Virginia, where it appeared a higher number voted than in any midterm in the state's history, said Curtis Gans, director of the centre.....It also was a big turnout success for Democrats. They drew more voters than Republicans for the first time in a midterm election since 1990....." The article taken from ABC News reports continued: "National turnout could end up substantially higher, pending more complete numbers from California and Washington state, Gans said. The highest midterm turnout in recent memory was 42.1% in 1982. In fiercely contested Virginia - where Democratic challenger James Webb's lead over Republican incumbent George Allen was razor thin and a recount was likely - an estimated 43.7% of eligible voters went to the polls, compared with 29.2% in the previous midterm. The last time turnout was comparably high in Virginia was when it hit 43.2% in 1994, Gans said. Ohioans also came out in substantially greater numbers - unofficial figures showed 44.3% of eligible voters cast ballots compared with 38.4% in 2002. Turnout also was substantially higher in Michigan and Missouri; somewhat higher in Connecticut, Delaware and Kentucky, and slightly higher in Montana, Gans' calculations showed. It went down substantially in Louisiana because voters there didn't have a statewide race to decide "and because of (hurricane) Katrina," (Voter turnout in U.S. midterm election slightly higher than usual, Pauline Jelinek, Canadian Press, 11/8/06)

[back to Home page]

DEVAL PATRICK, the first black governor elected in Massachusetts, pledged to keep working with the extraordinary grassroots coalition he has built and unite the electorate across the social chasms that often divide us. Read his acceptance speech or read article on his grassroots organizing effort.
The Patrick/Murray transition team has set up citizen task forces to advise them on a dozen or so topics including Civic Engagement and held a series of public meeting to gather feedback on their agenda. Read their Civic Engagement Transition Team Report
[Read letter from David Crowley, founder of SCI, of how they should promote civic engagement. ]
The Patrick Administration also held a Youth Inaugural (Jan. 2007) in the Schubert Theater to involve 1000 high schoolers, 2 from every public school, from across the state in providing input to the Patrick Administration on 3 discussion topics. See the Mass. Civic Youth website (hosted by Social Capital, Inc.) and stories on the youth inaugural here, here and one on the Framingham delegation.
read, Keep the Public Involved, Patrick (David Tebaldi, Boston Globe Op-Ed, 12/30/06)
other politicians are noted for their efforts to keep in touch with grassroots constituents, for example, Senator Russ Feingold has pledged a 'listening session' every year in each of Wisconsin's 72 counties and in Nov. 2006 held his 1000th listening session since 1993 (averaging about 1.5 such sessions per week) ; and Bernie Sanders holds frequent 'town meetings' with his constituents.

[back to Home page]

There were a host of problems with voting machines, IDs, possible voter suppression, but they were largely isolated.
: see this NYT Editorial on problems with electronic voting called Counting the Vote Badly (NYT, 11/16/06)
The True Ideological Battle (WSJ, 11/7/06, Arthur C. Brooks Op-Ed) asserts that many winning democrats look more like Republicans. Despite the Hispanics overwhelmingly voting Democratic, he cites Saguaro's 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey to show that newly voting Latinos are more conservative than liberal. [Frank Rich in a 11-19-06 Op-Ed It's Not The Democrats Who Are Divided, claims that the newly elected Democrats are not generally more conservative than past Democrats.]
Nancy Pelosi, incoming Speaker of the House, has pledged to restore a civil culture to the U.S. House. This may be a challenge with the departure of key Republican moderates in the House (J. Leach-IA, N. Johnson-CT) and Senate (Chafee-RI; M. DeWine-OH). [Shaw-R(FL) and Bass-R(NH) who are somewhat moderate were also defeated.]
Moreover, some think this will be made more difficult by her heavy but unsuccessful lobbying for Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) for Majority Leader, a figure with past ethical skeletons in his closet and controversial among both Democrats and Republicans alike.
Mark Muro Op-Ed notes that signature of 2006 is the easy victories of more moderate Governors (like revamped Schwarzenegger-CA; Janet Napolitano-AZ; Kathleen Seblius-KS; or Jodi Rell-CT).
Voters in their decision to vote for new (largely democratic) faces indicated their disgust with corruption in exit polls.

Voters were disenchanted with Bush and Congress: 58 percent of voters disapprove of Bush's performance. Only 36% approved of job Congress was doing and 61% disapproved. "Of those who disapproved, 71 percent voted for the Democratic House candidate. Of those who approved, 71 percent voted for the Republican House candidate."
In an interesting twist on social capital, mobilized volunteers to make 7 million calls to undecided voters in key target states. It wasn't quite social capital, since voters weren't contacting individuals who they knew, but perhaps it was more personalized than getting calls from a phone bank.
In new Senate, the middle rules (Christian Science Monitor, 11/13/06) describing how moderates will have increased power in the new Senate seated in January 2007.
A good analysis of the 2006 elections can be found at the Pew Research Center.
The New Republic story (12/11/06), Nancy Pelosi's Dilemma: Full House describes the challenges Nancy Peleosi faces in trying to unite her Democratic members who are far less unified than the 1994 Newt Gingrich "Contract with America" Republicans.
Changes are Expected in Voting by 2008 Elections (NYT, 12/8/2006, by Ian Urbina and Christopher Drew, p. A1)

[back to Home page]

Based on exit polling, Andy Kohut (of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press) reports that "There are few signs that the Republican base deserted the party. Christian conservatives, and conservatives generally, voted as Republican as they did in '02. Nor did white evangelical Protestants defect to the Democrats in any substantial number, as a number of post-election news stories have suggested. True, somewhat fewer white evangelical Protestants voted for Republican Congressional candidates than in 2004, when Bush was at the top of the ticket, but white evangelical protestant backing of G.O.P. candidates was just as great in 2006 as it was four years ago, when the Republicans won the popular vote by a sizable margin. The real religion story of this election is that the least religious Americans -- voters who attend church rarely or never -- made the biggest difference to the outcome of the election. This group gave Democrats an even greater share of their vote -- 67%, up from 55% in 2002." [See further analysis and various tables on how evangelicals and voters voted by religiosity.]
Democrats Ride Social, Environment Issues to Religious Gains (WSJ, 11/9/06, John D. McKinnon and Erika Lovley) Democrats were bolstered by conclusion that evangelicals could be wooed. "Exit polls suggest that Democrats made significant gains among several religious demographic groups, including both Catholics and evangelical Protestants. While the party's 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry won barely 20% of white evangelicals, for example, almost 30% voted Democratic this year. Democrats won the backing of 55% of Catholics this year, compared with 47% in 2004. Two years ago, conservative religious groups claimed credit for putting President Bush over the top in his tough re-election battle, and were rewarded with two conservative Supreme Court justices. Now, however, much of their political agenda and even a measure of their strength have crumbled with the loss of Republican control in the House, and probably in the Senate."
Newsweek cover story (11/13/06, Lisa Miller) An Evangelical Identity Crisis --Sex or social justice? The war between the religious right and believers who want to go broader. The article describes the evangelical religious landscape in America and the historical forces that led some to withdraw from society and others to actively engage in areas of politics and social issues. The article also highlights various books showing evident divides within the evangelical sector like David Kuo's disillusionment with the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives called Tempting Faith (2006) or Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson's Blinded by Might (about their falling out with the Moral Majority). Article discusses Rick Warren's positions supporting aid to Darfur and ending homelessness at the same time as he criticizes abortion and stem-cell research funding; and Bill Hybels (the head of WillowCreek) who has befriended U-2 star and social activist Bono and invited Bono to speak to Willow Creek parishioners, changing many of their minds about what a true Christian should believe.
Jim Wallis asserts that one of the lessons of 2006 is that when democratic candidates can legitimately tout their own faith (as in Senate races in Ohio and Pennsylvania and governor's race in Ohio), they can beat back the claims by Republicans that God is on their side.
Democrats Get Religion (SF Chronicle, 11/5/06, Vicki Haddock)
Evangelical Voters Leaving Republican Flock (ABC- Good Morning America 11-03-2006), citing recent Pew finding that evangelicals were less attached to Republicans, and citing Monique el-Faizy, author of God and Country: How Evangelicals Have Become America's Mainstream (2006), about the disaffection of evangelicals with Republicans. Similar story in Washington Post here.

[back to Home page]

YOUNG PEOPLE AND SOCIAL CAPITAL (UK) The Centre for Social Action, De Montfort University, School of Applied Social Sciences, in Leicester (UK) issued the Young People and Social Capital pamphlet (2006) that describes how UK youth utilize social capital to manage risk decisions and bring in new resources.


We are so delighted that Saguaro's Barack Obama was elected America's 44th president and first African American president in a landslide victory in a truly historic 2008 election that brought millions of new voters to the polls and enlisted scores of new donors and canvassers. Preliminary indicators are that a higher percentage of registered voters voted than in any year since the early 1960s. See some highlights of the campaign.
- Obama's 2/11/07 announcement of his candidacy in Illiinois at statehouse where Abraham Lincoln announced his presidency
- Yes We Can speech in NH after the primaries
- of Black Eyed Peas' inspring 'Yes We Can' video based on Obama's NH speech
December 6, 2007 Mt. Vernon , Iowa speech calling for broadened national service , an issue brief about it here and statements in support here.
- The Speech (David Bernstein, Chicago Magazine, June 2007) offers a behind-the-scenes look at what went into Obama's 2004 keynote at the Democratic National Convention that launched him into the ranks of political rising star. (2004 speech here with part1 and part2)
- Barack's speech at Democratic Convention in 2008 accepting nomination
- See Barack's victory speech in Chicago (Nov. 5, 2008)
- Read Barack's book, The Audacity of Hope (2006)

[back to Home page]

COMMUTING ALONE. The Transportation Safety Board's Commuting in America III had various findings, almost all bad for social capital. Among them:
:: The number of workers driving alone has increased by 34 million since 1980 while number of workers has increased by only 31 million over this period, although rates of increase have slowed.
:: A sharp increase in extreme commuting: people leaving before 6 AM and traveling more than 60 minutes and even more than 90 minutes to work.
:: Carpooling numbers are down even in absolute numbers (except in the West), transit use is down (except in the West), and walking is down.
:: There has been an increase in telecommuters (working from home) -- this is the only social capital good news in the report.

[back to Home page]

COLLEGE STUDENT VOLUNTEERING is up from 27% in 2002 to 30% in 2005 according to National Service Report, College Students Helping America (Oct. 2006). The student volunteering rate now exceeds the adult volunteering rate. Among the findings:
College students were twice as likely to volunteer as individuals of the same age who not in college. (30.2% versus and 15.1%).
Although working a bit was better for volunteering, working a lot was bad for volunteering. Students who work 1 to 10 hours per week part-time (46.4 percent) are more likely to volunteer than those who do not work at all (29.8 percent). But only 23% of students working 31-35 hours volunteered and this declined to 23% for students working 36-40 hours a week.
More college student volunteers (27%) are episodic volunteers (volunteering fewer than two weeks annually with their main organization) than adults (23.4%). Nevertheless, 44.1% of college student volunteers also engage in regular volunteering (volunteering 12 or more weeks per year with their main organization).

[back to Home page]

ADCOUNCIL PHILANTHROPY CAMPAIGN (9/2006): The AdCouncil launched its initiative "Generous Nation" with its tagline, "Don't Almost Give. Give." Here is their website, and their six ad spots to promote giving. Here is the NY Times' story on the initiative.

AMERICA'S CIVIC HEALTH INDEX: The National Conference of Citizenship issued its report "America's Civic Health Index: Broken Engagement" at their 2006 annual conference (with Thomas Sander and Robert Putnam as collaborators).

- Let's Get Connected (September 11, 2006, TIME Viewpoint, by John Bridgeland and Robert D. Putnam) summarizes some of the NCoC's report findings.
- Civic Involvement Tied to Education: High School Dropouts Unlikely to Vote
(Washington Post, 9/19/06, p. A19, Amy Goldstein) discusses the report and a panel discussion of it.
- A webcast of the panel discussing the report is available here (click on State of our Civic Union).
- The underlying data from the report can be accessed here.

[back to Home page]

9-11 FIFTH ANNIVERSARY: Many stories chronicle the social and civic impact of 9-11 on Americans at the five year anniversary. Among them:
:: Whatever Happened to the America of 9/12? (NYT, 9/10/06 by Frank Rich)
::Did September 11 Produce a Generation of Volunteers? (Ian Wilhelm) and Learning from 9-11 (Suzanne Perry). [Chronicle of Philanthropy, 8/31/06]
:: 9/11/06 (NYT Editorial, 9/11/2006). The Times editorial staff remarked "What we do revisit, over and over again, is the period that followed, when sorrow was merged with a sense of community and purpose. How, having lost so much on the day itself, did we also manage to lose that as well?" They believe that our "pinched" sense of responsibility originated with President Bush's failed leadership to call for any citizen sacrifice other than paying our normal taxes. They assert that we we wouldn't be fighting in Iraq if everyone's sons and daughters were called into service, but instead the demands of the post-9-11 era were to be fought with the "blood of other people's children, and with money earned by the next generation." "The country still hungers for something better, for evidence that our leaders also believe in ideas larger than their own political advancement.....It would be miraculous if the best of our leaders did something larger -- expressed grief and responsibility for the bad path down which we've gone, and promised to work together to turn us in a better direction. ...If that kind of coming together happened today, we could look back on Sept. 11, 2006, as more than a day for recalling bad memories and lost chances."
:: For more stories on 9-11 5th anniversary impact visit here.

[back to Home page]

DECLINING TRUST IN LEADERS. Second National Leadership Index (10/06) shows increasing distrust and lack of confidence in leaders (according to KSG Center for Public Leadership).
:: The National Leadership Index showed trust was lowest of the Press, Executive Branch, Congress and Business. And 5 of 11 categories showed significant declines from prior year (Educational, Religious, Business, Congressional Branch and Executive Branch of Government). None of the 11 categories showed significant increases over 2005.
:: Republicans lost confidence in the Executive Branch leadership; Democrats and Independents did not. However, Republicans continue to have greater confidence than Democrats and Independents do in that branch of government.

[back to Home page]

DRAMATIC INCREASE IN SOCIAL ISOLATION IN LAST TWO DECADES: Two prominent sociologists and former critics (Lynn Smith-Lovin and Miller McPherson) now agree that we're Bowling Alone. They set out to prove that while association-going and politics may be down, that our friendship patterns are very robust, but they were shocked that the data confirmed the same patterns in Bowling Alone.
:: From 1985-2004, the percentage of Americans lacking anyone to discuss important matters with has nearly tripled (in the gold-standard General Social Survey data), going from 10% to 25%, and those who were only one friend away from being socially isolated went from 25% in 1985 to 44% in 2004.
:: We are also much more dependent on family for these close friends. In 1985, 64% of Americans had at least 1 non-kin friend, and that has dropped to 46% in 2004 and the average number of non-kin friends has dropped from 1.4 to 0.9 in only two decades.
:: See 2006 Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades, American Sociological Review 71(3): 353-375.
:: See also stories in
Boston Globe
Washington Post
New York Times
Ellen Goodman's Friendless in America and
TIME essay by Robert Putnam

[back to Home page]

GSS DECLINE IN ASSOCIATIONALISM: The General Social Survey also shows marked drops from 1994-2004 across 14 of the 16 types of associations asked. The only increasing groups were hobby groups (up from 9% to 11% of respondents) and literary/arts groups (up from 10% to 10.5% of respondents). Ignoring these two, membership in the other 14 types dropped by an average of almost one-fifth (19%), and total memberships per capita dropped by 14%.

[back to Home page]

IRISH PRIME MINISTER AHERN, saying that the quality of life in Ireland depends on the civic involvement of citizens, announced on April 14, 2005 the establishment of a Task Force on Active Citizenship to help maintain and develop a healthy civic society. They recommended 10 key aims in September (Irish Times, "Task Force Aims to Increase Community Ties in Dublin", p. 8)
:: Putnam had earlier met with Aehrn back in September 2005 about the focus on social capital in Ahern's campaign.. See article in Irish Times. [More on Bertie Ahern's civic taskforce.]

GROWING CLASS GAP IN SOCIAL CAPITAL: Thomas Sander's Op-Ed in the Boston Globe, A Friend in Need, describes the evidence of the growing gap in social capital between rich and poor (11/14/05).

[back to Home page]

Interesting newer books relating to social capital.

FAMILY DINNERS INCREASING? Families with Full Plates, Sitting Down to Dinner (New York Times, 4/5/06, p. A1) cites a Columbia study showing a recent rise in family dinners. The annual long-term data we've seen (DDB) shows a stemming of a 25-year free-fall in family dinners, but it is less clear if there is a significant rise since 2002. If the Columbia study proves to be accurate it could demonstrate how concerted attention to a problem can make meaningful change in increasing our social and civic engagement.

RICK WARREN, the pastor of Saddleback Church, spoke at the Kennedy School Forum in March 2005 on whether the 2004 elections represented part of a new spiritual awakening in America. Warren is author of the best-selling hardcover book Purpose Driven Life in American history and his megachurch Saddleback was featured in one of the chapters in Better Together. Malcolm Gladwell also wrote an interesting piece about Saddleback called "Cellular Church" (New Yorker, 9/12/05).


RISE IN TEEN VOLUNTEERING/POLITICS, DECLINES IN RELIGIOSITY: Jan. 2006: 2005 American College Freshman Survey reports increases in volunteering and politics among college freshman and declines in religiosity. Findings are in line with Saguaro (Thomas Sander and Robert Putnam) Op-Ed in the Washington Post (9/10/05) "September 11 as Civics Lesson" on evidence of a new civic 9-11 generation among youth.

CANADA PRI PUBLISHES GUIDES TO APPLY SOCIAL CAPITAL TO POLICY: Canada's Policy Research Initiative has four very well-written and instructive pieces (2005): Social Capital as a Public Policy Tool Project Report, Policy Brief, Measurement of Social Capital and Social Capital in Action: Thematic Policy Studies (the latter in which eight authors apply a social capital lens to a specific policy and/or program area).

- Saguaro participant Glenn Loury gave an interesting commencement address at Boston University's 2005 commencement.
- Tim Russert at Harvard's Class Day spoke about the possibilities of the Class of 2005 being a new 'Greatest Generation'. Some excerpts available here.


:: PUTNAM/HELLIWELL PAPER ON SOCIAL CAPITAL AND LIFE SATISFACTION: "The social context of well-being" (Royal Society in London) appears in The Science of Wellbeing (eds. Huppert, F., Baylis, N. and B. Keverne, 2005, Oxford Univ. Press).

PUTNAM SPEAKS TO OECD EDCUATIONAL MINISTERS about "Education and Social Cohesion" in Dublin on March 18, 2004.

:: 2004 PRESIDENTIAL VOTING TURNOUT:: Voting rates in the U.S. were 60.7%, the highest since 1968 (61.9%). For a CIRCLE report on youth voting rates in the 2004 election click here.


Our thoughts go to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and you can find worthy organizations to donate to here and here.

Click here for more information on the social capital ramifications of Katrina, including articles on its one-year anniversary

[back to Home page]


Social Capital Bibliography
Social Capital in the News
Interesting articles/research
Civic Education Research
Civic Education Organizations
Diversity Research
Home Page


Robert D. Putnam and Lara Putnam's Op-Ed "The Growing Class Gap"
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4/20/08

Robert D. Putnam's Op-Ed "The Rebirth of American Civic Life" in Sunday Boston Globe (3/2/08)

Putnam discusses diversity and social capital research.

See Saguaro's Barack Obama's inspring "Yes We Can" video.

Xav Briggs publishes "Some of my best friends are" 12-07 in City & Community using Social Capital Benchmark survey. ...more


Capital Ideas (Guardian, 7/18/07) explains the Harvard-Manchester collaboration on social change.

The Downside of Diversity (International Herald Tribune, 8/5/07)


STATE ESTIMATES OF VOLUNTEERING/ SOCIAL CAPITAL: The U..S. government began measurnig some elements of social capital in Nov. 2006. Details here.

TRUST AT 34 YEAR LOW. NYT's sneak previews of 2006 GSS data.

Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the victims of Katrina; learn more here about Katrina's social capital ramifications.

home | about Social Capital| contact us | email us | KSG | Harvard | site map

Copyright, 2007, President and Fellows of Harvard College

website design by

go to main harvard site