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Private Lives and Public Worlds: Changes in Americans' Social Ties and Civic Attachments in the Late-20th Century

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The tension between one's private life and larger public obligations has been the subject of much speculation, captured powerfully in works as diverse as those of Alexis de Tocqueville and Robert Putnam. This matter is explored to an extent not previously undertaken in a study of Americans' interpersonal ties and civic attachments at the end of the 20th century. Evidence from the GSS for 1974, 1984, and 1994 suggests that a person's gender, race, age, education, occupation, and mobility became a little more strongly associated with the way one socialized informally and less strongly associated with the kinds of organizations one joined. Regardless of where they live or what generation they came from, Americans have managed the tension between their private lives and broader public duties better and more creatively than we could have imagined.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Boston University 2: University of Minnesota

Publication date: 01 June 2003

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