My latest column in the September issue of Governing magazine looks at the seeming disconnect between statistical economy growth and deep unhappiness and malaise in many communities. I use the town I grew up in to contrast the tremendous progress in economic well-being in many respects, coupled with a collapse of social capital and conditions. Here’s an excerpt:
But while life in these places was poorer and technologically rudimentary, it was socially intact and cohesive. Now, that’s inverted. Although the comforts of everyday life are in many ways better, social conditions have collapsed for many. What has happened calls into question the idea that social well-being is tightly linked to economic health — that just providing more and better jobs can by itself turn broken families and communities around.
There are a number of people in the national media who make the argument that things aren’t so bad, that if you look at the numbers this idea that things are horrible in much of America just isn’t true. It’s easy for me to believe this is actually the case in a quantitative sense. But man does not live by bread alone. When you have an iPhone but your community is disintegrating socially, it’s not hard to see why people think things have taken a turn for the worse.
Click through to read the whole thing.