Social Capital Benchmark

The Community Foundation’s work on building social capital in the Twin Ports grew out of Dr. Robert D. Putnam’s keynote address to the Community Foundation’s Annual Meeting in May, 2001.

Dr. Putnam, professor at Harvard University, is the author of the best-selling book Bowling Alone:The Collapse and Revival of American Community, and is a nationally recognized expert on social capital. Putnam’s address focused on the decline of “social capital” and the need to rebuild community strengths and resources.

Social capital, also known as “community connectedness,” refers to social networks and the trust and reciprocity that arise from these networks. Studies show that communities with high levels ofsocial capital are likely to have higher educational achievement, better performing government, faster economic growth, and less crime and violence. People in these communities are also likely to be happier, healthier, and have a longer life expectancy.

Duluth, Superior and Social Capital:

In 2006, the Twin Ports participated in the Social Capital Community Survey. It surveyed 7,250 respondents, including 500 households in Duluth and Superior, to measure the degree of connectedness, interaction, and trust among people in Duluth and Superior, and in 21 other communities nationally. The 2006 survey builds on the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, developed by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The scope of the study allows comparisons with a national sample.

The survey found that Duluth and Superior are known for their high levels of some kinds of social capital. For example, residents in this region vote at greater numbers than other places and are involved in politics and sports in great numbers. People in Duluth and Superior also visit with their neighbors in very high numbers. But there are challenges. When they tend to interact, they interact with people like themselves. The area lacks “bridging social capital,” in which people with different interests and backgrounds work together. Additional survey findings, which include a break-out report for young adults in the Twin Ports can be found below. 

View the full findings of the 2006 Social Capital Report.

Drew Digby, who worked for the University of Minnesota Duluth at the time of the survey analyzed the research. In addition, the Community Foundation convened a Task Force of community advisors which reviewed the Duluth/Superior data prior to its public release. This committee included: Faith Hensrud, Casey LaCore, Chandra Mahrotra, Toby Marcovich, Christopher Markwood, Maureen O’Brien, Debra Smith and Donald Wallgren (Chair).