Civic Engagement and Community Heterogeneity: An Economist's Perspective
This paper provides an overview of the mushrooming economics literature on how community attributes influence the level of civic engagement. Since 1997, at least fifteeen empirical papers have investigated the consequences of heterogeneity for social capital. Social capital has been measured using indicators of group participation such as volunteer activity, organizational membership and activity, entertaining and visiting friends and relatives, and voting and indicators of the strength of network ties such as trust. These papers cover different nations, different social capital measures, and even different centuries. But a common theme emerges across these fifteen studies. More homogeneous communities foster greater levels of social capital production. We provide an overview of this literature and then focus on synthesizing our past work on volunteering and membership with new findings on trust and voting.