How Immigration Reduced Social Capital in the US: 2005-2011

43 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2013 Last revised: 1 Oct 2014

See all articles by Tiago Freire

Tiago Freire

University of Canberra; Roberts Capital Advisors LLC

Xiaoye Li

National University of Singapore

Date Written: September 22, 2014


In this study, we show that an inflow of immigrants reduces volunteering, a proxy of social capital investment, in receiving communities. Since the 1960s, the US has seen a large decrease in social capital as well as a considerable inflow of immigrants. This increased heterogeneity in US cities may have increased the cost of investing in social capital and thereby reduced such investment. By using the Current Population Survey (CPS) September Volunteer Supplement for 2005–2011, we examine the relationship between the proportion of foreign-born people and social capital investment by US-born individuals, proxied by volunteering. Once we correct for immigrants’ self-selection to different destinations using a supply-push instrumental variable, we find that a one standard deviation increase in the proportion of foreign-born individuals in a state reduces the probability of US-born individuals volunteering by 0.28–0.46 percentage points (9.2–14.8%) and cuts number of hours volunteered by 0.11%–0.19%.

Keywords: Migration, Social Capital, Volunteer, Race

JEL Classification: J61, J79, Z13

Suggested Citation

Miguel de Abreu Freire, Tiago Alexandre and Li, Xiaoye, How Immigration Reduced Social Capital in the US: 2005-2011 (September 22, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Tiago Alexandre Miguel de Abreu Freire (Contact Author)

University of Canberra ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601


Roberts Capital Advisors LLC ( email )

1350 Avenues of the Americas, Fl2
New York, NY 10019
United States

Xiaoye Li

National University of Singapore ( email )

1 Arts Link, AS2 #06-02
Singapore 117570, Singapore 119077
(65) 84364314 (Phone)

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