Our Research

Since 2000, the Seminar’s mission has been to both improve social capital measurement and data and to investigate ways to build social capital in a changing world across several domains. Please see the summaries below or click the links in the red menu on the left to learn more about each project.

The Saguaro Seminar is currently examining the relationship between inequality and social capital. In 2012, Saguaro began examining the work of nationally renowned scholars of economics, politics, and sociology to develop consensus about what we know about American social inequality and to chart an action-oriented agenda aimed at fostering equal opportunity through policy and research. We are particularly exploring the impact of economic hard times on social capital and civic engagement, as well as some worrying new evidence of a growing "class gap" among American young people, as kids from upper-middle class backgrounds are increasingly well-nested in family, religious, and community networks, whereas kids from the other side of the tracks are increasingly isolated from such connections. This phenomenon is a compound problem, as both changing family structure and income inequality have had a hand in the demise of social capital in many communities.

The Saguaro Seminar has been analyzing the results of 15 in-depth studies of diverse American congregations, two groundbreaking surveys in the United States on religion and public life in America, and parallel surveys in England, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. The US findings on the impact of religion and public life appeared in American Grace (co-authored by Robert Putnam of Harvard and David Campbell of Notre Dame) in 2010. Among the many discoveries, we find: a remarkable level of religiously bridging social capital constrains America’s high level of religiosity from leading to intolerance; religious Americans are happier and better citizens than non-religious Americans; and many American young people are leaving organized religion entirelyin part because of distaste for the Religious Rightthough they constitute a potential “market” for a less politicized religious experience.

Our research in this area, highlighted in “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century” (2007), demonstrated the long-term benefits of diversity while emphasizing our nation’s need to work over the shorter-term to overcome challenges diversity presents to community cohesion. As a part of our 5-year collaboration with The University of Manchester (UK), we produced The Age of Obama (2009), a monograph examining the social consequences of immigration and diversity in the US and UK.

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.