Dog Poop as a Social Capital Indicator

In West Harlem, there has been an increase in the supply of dog poop left on the ground.  The NY Times tells a social capital story featuring richer people bringing more dogs to the area and exacerbating the “Tragedy of the Commons”.   If the new entrants to the area don’t feel a connection to the area then they may not feel in the mood to engage in “voluntary restraint”.   Will NYC Mayorial candidates run on a “law and order” campaign here?   In 2003, Dora Costa and I published a paper on social capital trends in the U.S.  We found that income inequality at the metropolitan area level was an important correlate of being a “bad citizen”.    In our 2003 study, we examined outcomes such as volunteering because dog poop was not coded up as a variable in our micro data sets.

Switching subjects; for some economics of Downton Abbey click here.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

One thought on “Dog Poop as a Social Capital Indicator”

  1. This is a useful indicator of several things, actually – both socially and environmentally. Hereabouts, in a board I sit on we have a line item in the general fund for a service to clean and replenish supplies for ‘doggie pot’ stations. It works fairly well, but I wouldn’t say it is a good indicator of social capital – I’d ask some neighbors of their opinion of this indicator if I could get them to come outside and talk to their neighbors. But I do think it is a good indicator for individuals caring for their immediate and regional environment – why would you want to risk someone stepping in it? what is wrong with you – and also the risk to water quality.

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