February 4, 2009

Whiteness of states and their social capital

This is probably like a Pythagorean Theorem of sociology, so I don't claim the finding is original. Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone website has lots of free data, and at the bottom is a list of states and their social capital indexes -- basically, how socially cohesive communities are in that state. It jumps out at you, but here's a scatter-plot just to convince you:

The Spearman rank correlation is +0.72, p less than 10^-6. He later showed that greater ethnic diversity predicted lower trust in neighborhoods, so he surely noticed this pattern earlier. I haven't read the book, so it may even be in there.


  1. The white percent axis only goes down to 60. What about California, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Texas? Aren't they all less than 50% white?

  2. I have an old Putnam post here.

  3. No, they're what is shown. I should add that Putnam left out Alaska and Hawaii, and I left out DC, not being a state.

  4. Interesting. Though the plot is also consistent with the possibility that a small fraction of minorities has no harmful effect; the tipping point in that case seems to be somewhere around 90%.


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