Perspectives on Politics


Social Capital and Racial Inequality in America

Rodney E. Hero a1
a1 Packey J. Dee Professor of American Democracy and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame (

“Social capital” is said to be strongly associated with better substantive outcomes as well as with civic and economic dimensions of equality in the United States. Robert Putnam argues in Bowling Alone that “the American states with the highest levels of social capital are precisely the states most characterized by economic and civic equality.” He adds: “[B]oth across space [i.e., states] and across time, equality and fraternity [social capital] are strongly positively correlated …. [T]he empirical evidence on recent trends is unambiguous …. Community and equality are mutually reinforcing, not mutually incompatible.” 1


1 Putnam 2000, 358–63 (emphasis in original) and chapter 22 more generally; also see Rice and Sumberg 1997.

He specializes in U.S. democracy and politics, especially as viewed through the analytical lenses of Latino and ethnic/minority politics, state/urban politics, and federalism. His book Faces of Inequality: Social Diversity in American Politics received the American Political Science Association's 1999 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award.