The Configuration of Local Economic Power and Civic Participation in the Global Economy

In this paper we test the hypothesis that local economic concentration is associated with decreased levels of civic participation. We define economic concentration as a social context in which a small number of corporate establishments or industries dominate a local economy. We argue that economic concentration leads to a monolithic power structure and generates civic apathy because the needs of the corporation override those of the local population. To test this hypothesis, we employ combined data from the 2000 Social Capital Benchmark Survey and the County Business Patterns. Our findings indicate that local economic concentration is negatively associated with traditional electoral participation and protest activities. We conclude by discussing implications for current theoretical work on civic community, embedded within the empirical decline in U.S. civic engagement over the past three decades.