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Bowling Alone

Clint Baldwin led us in a discussion on bowling and social capital, based on Robert Putnam’s book.

Here is a summary:

Declining Social Capital – Trends over the last 25 years:

  • Attending Club Meetings-58% drop
  • Family dinners-43% drop
  • Having friends over-35% drop

  • Joining and participating in one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year.
  • Every ten minutes of commuting reduces all forms of social capital by 10%
  • Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital.

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000)

by Robert D. Putnam

In a groundbreaking book based on vast data, Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures– and how we may reconnect.

Putnam warns that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities.

Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline.

America has civicly reinvented itself before — approximately 100 years ago at the turn of the last century. And America can civicly reinvent itself again – find out how and help make it happen at our companion site,, an initiative of the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Here’s how to:

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