105 – Hard to Forget: Longlasting Effects of Social Capital Accumulation Shocks

Very few contributions have dealt with the analysis of specific determinants of social capital accumulation and destruction. Even if limited in scale, the analysis of precise historical events can help in discerning the dynamics of social capital and its persistence.

The case of Italian unification is here considered. I focus on three historical episodes of conflict, which caused the death of a big fraction of population in three specific locations.

When towns in the areas surrounding these locations are considered, I show how each kilometer further from the hit town is associated with a significant increase in the electoral turnout in European Parliament elections held in 1979-1999. I believe these differences to reflect differences in social capital endowments across towns.

The pattern is confirmed when World War I casualties are used as a measure of social capital at the beginning of the XXth century. Results are robust to the inclusion of a number of controls and to several robustness checks.

Keywords: social capital, political participation, social capital persistence, Italy.