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The Ozarks' Social Capital

Trust and involvement are the topics of a survey done by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Missouri State University

Trust and involvement are the topics of a survey done by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Missouri State University. They recently released their latest findings from the survey conducted around the Ozarks.This is the second survey the department has done comparing national averages of social capital and civic participation. The survey also shows how the data has changed over time.

The Ozarks Regional Social Capital and Civic Engagement’s first survey, done in 2008, found that Ozarks residents had higher levels of trust than the national average. However, it also found that residents of Greene County, specifically the working class, were much less trusting of local and national government.

Dr. Stout is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Missouri State University and head of the survey. He says that social capital exists when members of the community have networks of trusting, mutual relationships with one another.

“Essentially, it has to do with levels of trust and the nature of social connections. So we ask questions like, ‘In general, do you think that more people can be trusted?’ or ‘Do you think that you can’t be too careful when you’re dealing with people?’ People, who say yes, most people can be trusted, are people who have higher levels of trust than people who say no, you can’t trust people,” said Dr. Stout

So how could high levels of social capital in the broad Ozarks area be associated with other feelings of political alienation and low civic engagement in the smaller Greene County area?

The findings of the recent survey support that positive changes in trust and stronger social connections came only from the older, wealthier and more educated respondents. Dr. Stout and his team think this suggests social capital is divided unevenly amongst the community. 

“People who tend to have higher levels of social capital tend to have more opportunities for social mobility. As a social scientist, we are interested in what determines social mobility. This study kind of shows that as social capital becomes more stratified in our community, social mobility will start going down. That is what we are afraid the implications are,” said Dr. Stout.

Dr. Stout says that policies and programs that actively involve working class people taking action to affect happenings in their community would increase social capital between the socio-economical statues.

According to the survey, people who live in communities with high levels of social capital are likely to be happier, healthier, and to have a longer life expectancy than people from communities with low social capital.

For KSMU News I’m Shannon Bowers