Social Capital: America’s True Measure of Wealth

Building social capital one sandbag at a time

The American Dream often comes wrapped in an ethos of prosperity, homeownership, and upward mobility. Turns out that view misses the mark. According to a recent Survey on Community and Society (SCS) conducted by the American Enterprise Institute, most Americans value freedom and family more than the size of their mortgage or the number of digits in their bank account. Likewise, when gauging the nation’s collective riches, it would seem social capital is America’s true measure of wealth.

Social capital is the benefit we bank as a result of the relationships we forge with each other. Civic engagement, social connectedness, and community involvement all contribute to social capital. What counts as engagement? Involvement with volunteer public service groups such as Rotary or Kiwanis, for one. Coaching or supporting athletic teams and groups like Little League, AYSO, or YMCA. Then there’s the local PTA, cultural or hobby organizations, homeowners association, or Veterans groups.

In his bestseller Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse, Timothy P. Carney writes, “Strong communities function not only as safety nets and sources of knowledge and wisdom, but also as the grounds on which people can exercise their social and political muscle. These are where we find our purpose.” Continue reading