"Putnam's work shows how social bonds are the most powerful predictor of life satisfaction. For example, he reports that getting married is the equivalent of quadrupling you income and attending a club meeting regularly is the equivalent of doubling your income. The loss of social capital is felt in critical ways: Communities with less social capital have lower educational performance and more teen pregnancy, child suicide, low birth weight, and prenatal mortailty. Social capital is also a strong predictor of crime rates and other measures of neighborhood quality of life, as it is of our health: In quantitative terms, if you both smoke and belong to no groups, it's a close call as to which is the riskier behavior." --BOOK JACKET.
No, I am not going to over-fuss and walk out about these things, because the empirical scholarship is certainly there as a base and then on top of that this is a rallying cry, a histology (back to the last time things got this bad in the US, in the "Gilded Age" of the late 19th century, giving rise to new forms of community action, organization-based dogooderism, etc., in the "Progressive Era" of the early 20th), an etiology (TV is huge, which is why a proper treatment of the lonely crowded internet as a complex development is key; so are commutes; so are women working outside the home … and the book does do a good if perfunctory job reminding us that social capital too has its potential price in social repression a la the 1950s--and if our social capital is rising again now I would say that it is coming with new orthodoxies, no longer fifties monolithic but multiple and parallel as our likeminded communities are), and a polemic on the seriousness of the effects of the loss on our democracy, our economies, our happiness, our schools, our health. It does these things well, and they are important things. It'll be pretty clear to you which parts you can skim.
While in general, he presents the substantial lowering of attendance at clubs as an inherently bad thing, along with the notion that the separation of people in cities relative to small towns is a bad thing, I appreciated the chapter he added to examine whether many of the clubs weren't a superficial search for sameness in the first place. When you lived in both an intolerant cohesive small town and a tolerant larger city, you start to realize that having everybody know your name (and your business) can be a burden as much as a security blanket.
The one issue he did not examine that I wish he had covered was how the change in corporate values has crossed over into the rest of people's lives - i.e. decades long loyalty to the firm means nothing come layoff time. Additionally, as is usually the case in long books that do a great job in defining issues - his chapter on solutions is very weak and devoid of supporting data.
Worth reading, does make you think.