If you're like me, the phrase "bowling alone" conjures up vivid memories of undergrad sociology lectures about Robert Putnam and his popular 1995 essay. Putnam traced a decline in civic engagement to shifts in technology, including an increasing attachment to isolating media such as television and video games.
In a study about community attachment, you might expect social capital to play a big role. But two years of research have reinforced the finding that social capital isn't highly important in tying people to their communities. It was one of the drivers Gallup researchers studied, but it was low on the list of factors contributing to attachment.
Instead, researchers found a strong relationship between community attachment and social offerings (which includes the number and quality of local arts and entertainment venues). This means that what most determines a person's passion and loyalty to a place might not be whether they're bowling alone, but whether that bowling alley is a fun place to be.
From my understanding of Putnam's work, this finding doesn't necessarily contradict his research. "Bowling Alone" was less concerned with the relationship between people and their particular geographic communities, and more concerned with people's participation in democracy more generally.
Image courtesy of suzannelong on Flickr.