NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Understanding the Decline in Social Capital, 1952-1998

Dora L. Costa, Matthew E. Kahn

NBER Working Paper No. 8295
Issued in May 2001
NBER Program(s):   DAE

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8295

Published: Costa, Dora L. and Matthew E. Kahn. "Understanding The American Decline In Social Capital, 1952-1998," Kyklos, 2003, v56(1), 17-46.

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