Last year, CIRCLE and partners released a study showing that US communities that had stronger “civic health” were better able to withstand the effects of the recent recession. Since then, my colleagues and I have been working with the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) to explore that connection much more rigorously and comprehensively. Our new study is in production and will be released at the NCoC’s 67th annual conference in Philadelphia on Sept. 14.
Meanwhile, here is an interesting study consistent with our findings and distinctive because of its method. Eagle, Macy, and Claxton analyzed the actual phone calls and other electronic communications in Britain. Instead of using a poll or other sampled data, they actually analyzed all 368,000,000 contacts. They found that the diversity of communications networks in a given community strongly predicted its economic welfare. They say, “Although the causal direction of this relation—whether network diversity promotes opportunity or economic development leads to more diversified contacts—cannot be established, social network diversity seems to be at the very least a strong structural signature for the economic development of a community. ”
In our forthcoming work, we do investigate the causal direction. We argue that civic engagement strengthens networks and that networks improve economic performance.