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Q: Socially disconnected ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Socially disconnected
Category: Science > Social Sciences
Asked by: jamiemac-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 09 Sep 2002 14:08 PDT
Expires: 09 Oct 2002 14:08 PDT
Question ID: 63189
Are more of us finding it hard to stay in touch with friends and
Are there statistics about how much more scattered we are than we used
to be, or other reasons for losing touch?
Subject: Re: Socially disconnected
Answered By: bethc-ga on 09 Sep 2002 18:47 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi jamiemac,

There is no doubt that our families are more scattered today than in
previous generations. This is something that has been occurring
gradually, since colonists first arrived.

“Throughout the last half of the 19th Century and well into the 20th,
a great migration took place in the United States. First, the
residents of the colonies who had become disenchanted with economic
conditions, spent land, or the closing in of space, headed westward in
search of new opportunities. After settling the Ohio Valley and onward
into what's now Illinois and Indiana, these same folks felt the pinch
of civilization and headed west again. The great migrations to Oregon
and California by way of the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails, distributed
homesteaders across this great land.

“Before all these migrations began, generations of most families
stayed in one place--many even lived out their lives in the same home
as their ancestors. As people began to move, families scattered.”

Many factors have contributed to the continued scattering of families
throughout the years. After the Civil War, many moved west in search
of a better life and new opportunities. The Industrial Revolution saw
people leaving farms for jobs in the cities. Improvements in
transportation, infrastructure, job opportunities and communication
have made movement easier and more prevalent, until families are
literally strewn all across the country.

Genealogy Today
The Great Migrations, by Bob Brooke

There are many other reasons why we lose touch with each other: family
disagreements, war, adoption, illness. Here are some others:

“Friends and extended families can be affected and even traumatised by
divorce. A grandparent fearful of losing touch with their
grandchildren, nieces and nephews, the whole extended family life is
involved in the divorce.”

Complimentary Health & Lifestyle

“Living alone is more common with the elderly around one in five men
aged 65-74 live alone and around two in five women live alone. Amongst
the 75+ nearly one third of men live alone and over a half are women
who live alone. The feeling of isolation may be due to families moving
away / losing touch, diminishing circle of friends, or retirement and
the feeling of self-worth.”

DIY Doctor: Health in Retirement

The Institute for Community Studies, in an article entitled “Declining
Social Capital and the Loss of Community”, discusses the importance of
“social capital” and the problems that result from social

“In its broadest sense, social capital refers to the entire range of
connections that individuals make to each other. It consists of all
the varied networks people use (or create) to communicate, set goals,
mobilize resources and coordinate actions. All these connections make
up a web of reciprocity and social trust that has come to be called
social capital.”

The document refers to the recent publication of Robert Putnam's
“Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”. In
that study, Putnam points out that, "over the last twenty years more
than a dozen large studies ... in the United States, Scandinavia, and
Japan have shown that people who are socially disconnected are between
two and five times more likely to die from all causes, compared with
matched individuals who have close ties with family, friends, and the

Social capital is second only to poverty in exerting a major influence
on the lives of children. In a situation where there is little
neighborhood cohesion, the incidences of child abuse rise. Social ties
and connections have a powerful influence on the lives of individuals,
in many cases determining who gets a job, promotion or bonus.

The same study also pointed to additional factors contributing to the
increase of social disconnection in our lives. The importance of the
car is seen as a contributor, and the following statistics are cited:

- America has more cars than drivers.
- American adults average 72 minutes behind the wheel every day, more
than twice as much as the average parent spends with the kids.
- Two thirds of all car trips are made alone.
- Each additional 10 minutes in daily commuting time cuts involvement
in community affairs by 10 percent.
(Source: Bowling Alone, pp. 212-213)

Likewise, increase in the average workweek leaves us less time to
interact with friends and family. “From 1989 to 1998 middle-income
families added about 135 hours a year to their work time.”

The benefits of social capital were shown in a study of a small
Italian-American community in Pennsylvania. The article, “Long Live
Community: Social Capital as Public Health,by Ichiro Kawachi, Bruce P.
Kennedy and Kimberly Lochner (The American Prospect, Nov.-Dec., 1997),
studied the small town of Roseto.

“The town, Roseto had been something of a medical mystery since the
1950s, when it was first noticed that death rates were substantially
lower than that of neighboring communities, yet there were no
significant differences in diet or other lifestyle factors. What was
noticed were the close-knit relations among residents in the
community. In other words, Roseto had high social capital. As time
progressed and Roseto's younger inhabitants became more concerned with
material wealth than with community relations, social capital
declined. Mortality rates in Roseto, particularly the incidence of
heart attack, quickly caught up to the level of neighboring

Institute for Community Studies
Fall 2000

This is a PDF file, and requires Adobe Acrobat to read. If you do not
have a copy, it may be downloaded free of charge here:

Additional Resources:
The Institute for Community Studies

In a speech that he gave at the University of Connecticut, Thomas J.
Dodd Research Center, this same Robert Putnam, who is a Harvard
University public policy professor, asserts that Americans are more
socially disconnected from one another than at any time since the
start of the 20th Century. In this speech, Putnam gave some additional
reasons that we are growing less in touch with our neighbors, friends
and family. Citing television as one culprit, he said, "Most of us
watch 'Friends' instead of having them.”

But he claims that the phenomenon of social disconnection is not a
recent one, pointing out that the same thing was true 100 years ago.
“The United States of the early 1900s was undergoing unprecedented
changes because of the Industrial Revolution, immigration and
urbanization. Americans responded a century ago by inventing "new ways
of connecting," creating new civic associations and clubs and
organizing new industrial unions. The consequences of this era of
social invention formed the backbone of American civic culture through
the 1960s.”

University of Connecticut

The verdict is still out on whether the Internet contributes to our
social disconnection or allows us to remain closer to family and
friends who are scattered throughout the world.

“People are using the Net and the Web to maintain and develop
relationships. Many of those are personal. My grandson, Teddy, had his
sixth birthday on the 12th of February. On that day, my daughter took
some pictures of Teddy and his presents and e-mailed them to me, to my
ex-wife, to Teddy’s aunts and uncles, and to his great-grandfather.
Speaking of that great-grandfather, my dad uses e-mail to stay in
touch with friends scattered around the world that he can’t visit as
often as he used to.”

What Are Folks Doing on the Net?

The opposite viewpoint is offered in an editorial in The Exponent of
Northern State University, South Dakota.

“True, the computer is uniting the world through the Internet like
never before, but it is dividing people. How many people do you know
who spend hours on the computer at the expense of their relationships
with family and friends? I know many, or at least I used to know many.
Now I'm not sure if I can say that I know those people at all anymore.
Their "real" friends exist in chat-rooms and e-mails. Marriages are
being torn asunder thanks to cyber-affairs. For some reason, people
don't think that those are "real" affairs because they never actually
cheat on their spouses. Dinner conversation at the family table is
virtually non-existent anymore. The "real" conversations are on the
discussion boards discussing everything from world politics to the
next Star Wars movie. So here's the question: between the Web and the
world, what's really "real"?”

Losing Touch in the Cyber-age

On the other hand, The BBC reports that email is losing in popularity
as people decide that a more personal approach to keeping in touch is

“The number of people surfing the internet in the UK is rising, but
the popularity of e-mail is on the decline. According to the
Consumers' Association annual survey 36% of the entire population now
goes online - compared to 27% a year earlier. But email appears to be
losing out to a more personal approach as the preferred means of
keeping in touch, and the Consumer Association's experts predict the
decline will continue. Just 5% of surfers consider e-mail their
preferred choice, while the number of Britons preferring face-to-face
communication surged from 39% to 67%, the survey said.”

BBC News
Are You Sick of E-Mail?
June 25, 2001

While a USA Today Snapshot shows the same trend in rising personal
contact and the falling popularity of email as a means of staying in
Staying in Touch With Friends

Telephone			60%
Dine at Restaurants	37%
E-mail			34%
Letter				17%

USA Today
Peter D. Hart for Shell Oil
January 24, 2001

I hope this has answered your questions, jamiemac. Should you require
further explanation of any of the above information, please do not
hesitate to ask for clarification.



Search criteria:
"losing touch" family friends
"social disconnected" OR "socially disconnected"
"staying in touch" friends OR family
"staying in touch" friends OR family scattered

Request for Answer Clarification by jamiemac-ga on 16 Sep 2002 18:49 PDT
Thank you very much for such a well-constructed and fascinating
response. (I was able to read it a few days ago, but had a glitch with
my account, so can only now reply.)

The data I've found surprisingly elusive, and would still love to see,
are stats for people moving around/re-locating: the hypothesis is that
more of us move, further and more often, with each generation. (I
thought I'd be able to dig something out from census stat pages, but
haven't.) It would be great to find enough to show a trend.

Did you find anything like this in your searches? 

In any event, this is amazing value, and a really rich and
thought-provoking answer - thank you!

(By the way - you don't happen to know what keystroke combination I've
accidentally pushed that is making me type over my text, instead of
inserting? It's driving me mad!)

Request for Answer Clarification by jamiemac-ga on 20 Sep 2002 12:02 PDT
I see that my question is listed as closed. Is this because I should
have waited for a response to my earlier request for clarification
before rating the answer?
I said that what I "would still love to see,
are stats for people moving around/re-locating: the hypothesis is that
more of us move, further and more often, with each generation."

I would be happy with US data, and happier still if it was worldwide.

Thank you - and please forgive me if I have failed to follow the

Clarification of Answer by bethc-ga on 23 Sep 2002 08:09 PDT
Hi jamiemac,

Please excuse my tardy response to your clarification request. I have
been out of town for the past week, and have just picked up your
requests this morning. I was not able to find any statistics relating
to how much more scattered families are today than previously, and in
fact, I recall reading that statistics were not available, as the
migration is very gradual and reliable means of tracking are not
available. As your question asked for statistics OR other reasons for
the trend, I misunderstood the importance of the statistics.  I will
try some additional searches, to see if I can unearth any more numbers
for you.

As regards the clarification process, if you need clarification, it is
best to wait until you have received it to rate an answer. Rating an
answer does not necessarily close a question, though, as further
clarifications are still possible. Many questions are not rated at
all. If a question is going to be rated, or clarification requested,
it usually occurs in the first few hours or days after the answer is
posted. In your case, since the question was not rated and no
clarification was requested for a week, I assumed (wrongly) that it
was safe to go away. I apologize if you have felt ignored. I will post
any additional information I can find for you.


Clarification of Answer by bethc-ga on 24 Sep 2002 07:16 PDT
Hi jamiemac,

I have spent several more hours trying to unearth numbers which might
prove helpful to you, and have come up with the following.

A family reunion story on the website of Newhouse News Service, a
Washington DC news bureau that covers issue-type stories, offered the
following statistics from the US Census.

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 43 million Americans moved
between March 1999 and March 2000. About a fifth moved to a different
state. The number of people moving had been steady through the 1990s,
but in 1998 more started going farther distances.”

As regards the trend toward succeeding generations moving further
afield, they go on to say:

“The days of families staying in the same neighborhood are gone, said
Larry Basirico, a sociology professor at Elon University in North
Carolina: "It wasn't until the baby boomers that moving away became
accepted. Now, it's the expectation that you go where the money is."”

Reunions Provide Vital Links for Today's Scattered Families
By Michele M. Melendez
Newhouse News Service

I found information on immigration statistics, as these are numbers
that are more easily quantified, but when someone moves within their
own country, data on their family’s place of origin is not easily

For instance, statistics are available on international migration to
all European countries, Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the US,
and this would almost certainly indicate  trends in the scattering of
families, but those who move some distance away from family, but
within their own country would not be reflected here. And even this
type of data collection is difficult, as pointed out in the following

“Each country has its own system of measuring migration, based on its
own particular requirements. This can make it difficult to achieve
strict comparisons across countries.”

This is, nonetheless, a very interesting report, with details on such
topics as:

Types of migration

History of migration
1. The slave trade
2. Indentured workers
3. Europe to the New World
4. After World War II
5. Doors close in Europe

Migration theory
1. Individual and family
2. Structures
3. Networks and systems

Why people migrate
1. Wage gaps
2. The need for workers
3. Development disruption
4. Globalization

How people migrate
1. Colonial paths
2. Family ties
3. Networks
4. Brokers
5. Smugglers
6. Traffickers

Impact of immigration
1. The economic imact
2. Filling the gaps
3. Employment
4. Welfare
5. Population

Stalker’s Guide to International Migration

In the US, I was not able to find any numbers comparing migration over
many generations. As you noted, the Census data is not very helpful in
this regard, as they do not seem to go back more than a few
generations. A website called “Ameristat”, however, has taken the
Census data and produced some statistics on the state of current
migration (1985 to 1999).

“There's No Place Like Home

“(AmeriStat, October 2000) In the United States, the romantic image of
a footloose nation of wanderers, willing to pack up and move across
the country to their "dream location" is far from reality. Most moves
are local — across town or into the next county — and are motivated by
fairly practical considerations, such as leaving the family home,
going to college, relocating from a rented apartment to an owned home
or condo, or making room for expected children. Without these
motivations, a person is likely to stay put and settle down.

“Indeed, "getting married and settling down" is more than just an
adage. Married people in the U.S. are about half as likely to move
than those who are single or divorced. Only widows and widowers, who
are usually ages 65 and older, move less. Among married couples, those
with husband and wife both in the labor force are slightly more likely
to move than those in other situations.”

A pie chart showing recent migration trends is shown here:

Between States: 16.1%
Within State: 21.7%
Within County: 62.2%

And they offer more in migration statistics here:


And finally, the most comprehensive data that I have been able to find
is a table prepared by the Census Bureau entitled: “Annual
Geographical Mobility Rates, By Type of Movement:  1947-2000.” It
gives numbers of people who moved each year for that period of time,
and breaks out the numbers into those who moved within a county,
within a state, and to a different state. It can be found here:

I hope that some of these numbers will be helpful to you, jamiemac.


Search criteria:
"moving away" OR relocating OR relocation family generation OR
generations scattered
"moving away" OR relocating OR relocation family generation OR
generations scattered statistics OR numbers
family migration OR moving statistics OR numbers
jamiemac-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Socially disconnected
From: weisstho-ga on 10 Sep 2002 06:09 PDT
No science here, but the number of people talking on cell phones in
public would make one wonder who they are talking to, what the
substance of the conversation is, and whether all that communication
is bringing people closer together.

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