WORKPLACE AND SOCIAL CAPITAL

The Saguaro research project on the workplace and social capital aims to understand what policies and practices at the workplace could help produce greater social capital (both on-the-job and off ) and whether there is a role for government. Additionally, Saguaro is conducting research on the relationship between life satisfaction and job satisfaction.

*As women have moved into the labor force over the last thirty or forty years, there's been a dramatic transformation of the American workforce greater than during the Industrial Revolution. Women's Liberation has been critically important for injecting their talents into the paid economy, but it has had a substantial and little-noticed effect in downsizing the caring sector in American society. Our parents' generation did a lot of really important social work building social capital but when women stopped doing that work, since it wasn't captured in our GDP or national accounts, there was an unseen big collapse in the caring sector of the economy. This resulted from the fact that there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and men haven't picked up the slack in this area as women went into the paid workforce. We have adjusted by women working harder, doing social activity as well as being professionals and by outsourcing caring activities, like child care and elder care and even matchmaking, which used to be Aunt Sadie but now is Match.com.

We're paying for stuff that we used to get through the unpaid labor of our moms. Between 1960 and now, more than a third of American workers have moved from kitchens to offices. And society has not adjusted to the consequences of that transformation. We currently think the provision of care is a private issue. The most-asked question at 8 AM in America is "Who's going to pick up the kids tonight?"and families cope through lots of individual adjustments. That would be OK if the only costs of not caring for your children or elderly parent, or not being able to coach Little League, or not being able to attend a community meeting were personal costs. But the buttressing research on social capital (link to primer.htm) show that in the aggregate, communities with lower social capital pay real and substantial costs in higher crime, less well-working schools, less responsive government, worse public health, less happy and healthy residents and a more sluggish economy.

We all pay the price from treating these decisions as private ones in which the communitiy has no stake. Our research project on the workplace and social capital aims to understand what policies and practices at the workplace could help produce greater social capital on- and off-the-job and whether the ratio of internal versus external benefits of this social capital creation require government intervention to ensure that firms adequately invest in social capital creation.*

MORE ON THIS RESEARCH COMING SOON...



The Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America - Harvard Kennedy School of Government
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, Phone: 617-495-1148 - FAX: 617-495-1589
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