Hanging Out All Over: The Social Capital Graphs That Look All Right
Is America’s social system going to pot? In a book famously on the nightstand of Bill Clinton, social scientist Robert Putnam argued so. One of the assertions he made in his turn-of-the-millenium book Bowling Alone was that we aren’t spending social evenings with others like we used to. On page 106 Putnam graphs responses to a perennial General Social Survey question: “How often do you spend a social evening with someone who lives in your neighborhood?” It doesn’t look good:
With another decade under our belts we can revisit this question, and also expand upon it. After all, this is just one of a handful of evening-time socializing questions asked by the General Social Survey. Find them here in Berkeley’s online GSS index (look under the variables that start with “SOC”). A broader view of Americans’ evening social habits over time looks like this:
It’s true that Americans don’t seem to be spending as much time socializing with neighbors as we used to. But, gosh darn it, we’re spending more time with friends outside the neighborhood, more time with relatives, and just as much time hanging out at the corner bar. Is this evening-time aspect of our social capital really dropping disastrously?