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Social Impact: How Did We Get This?

2012-06-01 00:00:00 UTC by Erin

How much time did you get to spend with your family today? Did you get to talk with many people you consider friends? One last question...how much time did you spend commuting to and from work?

Robert D. Putnam, who has served as chairman of Harvard’s Department of Government, among other notable positions, has spent his career doing extensive research on communities. In his book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, he argues that, as a society, we have seen a rapid decrease in what he calls social capital. Putnam defines social capital as the “collective value of all ‘social networks’ [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other ["norms of reciprocity"].”

Commuting is a huge factor in this loss of connection to others in our community. Putnam states that just a 10 minute increase in your commute time decreases your social capital by 10%. So, if you have a commute of 30 minutes or more, like many of us do, your chance of connecting socially to other people drops by 30% or more. That is an amazing amount of time to lose that could be spent with your family, friends, charitable organizations, exercising, or simply just petting your dog.

These long commutes create stress in your life, which means that something has to give. Too often, what gives is our connection to others. Over the last 25 years, according to Putnam, there has been a 35% decrease in having friends come over, a 43% decrease in family dinners, and a whopping 58% decrease in attendance of group meetings. Who has time for all of those activities when you spend it all getting to and from work?

CowTrip strives to show you how much your commute is impacting you in terms of dollars and cents, time lost, weakened social connections, and overall health and happiness. We hope the site is informative and fun and gives you a different perspective on your commute. Stick around, ‘cause we’re just getting started!


If you’d like to read more about Robert Putnam’s works, please check out http://bowlingalone.com/.