20 years late to the party is better than never….
It’s the habit of most of my readers and friends online to discuss the whys and wherefores of community involvement, religious involvement, and “how did we get into the mess we’re in”. This book looks at the correlative and causative factors in the demise of community involvement (from politics to religion to the Lion’s club) and gives some theories about what we might do about it, now that we’re here.
A short quote to sum things up:
“To predict whether I am likely to give time, money, blood, or even a minor favor, you need to know, above all, how active I am in community life and how strong my ties to family, friends, and neighbors are.” (p. 120-121)
In other words, being a member of the Bumble Bee Association makes you more likely to vote or pick up trash – even those things have nothing to do with the Bumble Bee Association – at least, it does if you have to go meet with the other association members, not just cut a check and put it in the mail. It’s extremely good for your children – and the other children in the neighborhood:
“Statistically, the correlation between high social capital and positive child development is as close to perfect as social scientists ever find in data analyses of this sort”. (p. 296-97). Correlation is not causation – but if you have that strong a correlation, it’s certainly worth sitting with!
Having social capital is a strong predictor of your income, your happiness, and your health. Yes, joining a club is good for your health! VERY good for your health. Disturbingly so.
“Statistically speaking, the evidence for the health consequences of social connectedness is as strong today as was the evidence for the health consequences of smoking at the time of the first surgeon-general’s report on smoking” (p. 327)
It’s not surprising that social capital benefits society. It did surprise me how far the tendrils creep. It surprises me further that this isn’t being trumpeted – perhaps that’s because the three things that seem to have the strongest correlation with a reduction in social capital were: 1) Watching TV as your major source of entertainment* 2) Increased commute times (even by as much as 10 minutes) and 3) Living in major urban areas (at least outside of close-knit neighborhoods, which have – to be fair – largely disappeared anyway). Women working outside the home was somewhat correlative, but not causative – PT working moms were the most involved, more so than fully SAHM or WOHM, both of whom saw equal rates of decline in social connectedness.
That might be cause for some behavior change – if we took the information seriously. You can’t do this alone – you can’t make social capital by yourself. But you can take advantage of what appears, and you can encourage others to do so. .. Can you not?
The book itself was 400+ pages of social research with charts and discussion. As a sociology nerd, I enjoyed it but it was …. long. I recommend it to those prepared to do the work. Or even those prepared to scan and snag ideas. To those looking for a fun read? Nah.
Data is always good. Has anyone else read this? I know I’m really late to the party. What did you get out of it?
*This would, I should think 20 years later, include watching Youtube videos online or gaming as your major source of entertainment…. but I don’t have data. In June, an update with a chapter about the internet will be available.