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Who killed civic America?

Why was the generation born in the 1920s and 1930s the last of the joiners?

By Robert Putnam   March 1996

For the last year or so I have been wrestling with a difficult mystery. It concerns the strange disappearance of social capital and civic engagement in the US. By “social capital” I mean features of social life-networks, norms, and trust-that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives.

Although I am not yet sure that I have solved the mystery, I have assembled evidence which clarifies what happened. An important clue involves differences among generations. Americans who came of age during the Depression and the second world war have been far more deeply engaged in the life…

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