Saturday, March 06, 2004


Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone arouses interest in many circles. He seems to be everywhere these days, recently spotted at 10 Downing Street by The Economist, reportedly discussing growing demographic diversity and the resulting decline of social capital. Critics of the book, while respecting the research, have noted that the author had been looking in all the wrong places. Old social networks decline (and this can be documented) but new ones emerge -- ones that are hard to find when only the old ones are examined. Putnam does not like urban sprawl and alleges that as suburbanites spend more time commuting (wrong), they have less time to be social. The trip survey data from the NPTS/NHTS show that travel choices and consequences between central city and suburban residents in the U.S. do not differ. Suburbanites take about as many "social" trips -- of approximately the same duration -- as their central city fellows.

As always, it is the supply and demand of/for news that matters. All news are sorted in the marketplace and some messages get more play, etc. The market-clearing price this year, if high enough, prompts extra supply next year, etc.

On the bright side, supply responds to other signals too.