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Place matters: government capacity, community characteristics, and social capital across United States counties

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 September 2020

Jamie R. McCall
Policy and Research Program, Carolina Small Business Development Fund, 3128 Highwoods Blvd, Suite 170, Raleigh, NC27604, USA
Austin Bussing
Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 361 Hamilton Hall, CB #3265, Chapel Hill, NC27599-3265, USA
Michele M. Hoyman*
Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 361 Hamilton Hall, CB #3265, Chapel Hill, NC27599-3265, USA
Laurie E. Paarlberg
Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University, 301 University Blvd, University Hall Suite 3000, Indianapolis, IN46202, USA
*Corresponding Author. E-mail:


Communities with high levels of social capital enjoy an array of positive economic and community development outcomes. We assess the role of several key community characteristics, including the strength of government institutions, in explaining local social capital variation. The analysis draws on data from United States counties and includes regression modelling and a Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition to explore differences in social capital across an area’s metropolitan status and region. The data show social capital determinants vary by place both due to the endowment levels of these determinants and the productive value of their coefficients. For example, the coefficient productive values of government capacity explain some differences in social capital levels across metropolitan status (but not across region). Concurrently, variations in government capacity endowment levels help explain some differences in social capital levels across region (but not across metropolitan status).

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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McCall et al. Dataset