Recent decades have seen a revival of interest in civic culture, sometimes called social capital or civic republicanism. As the term is generally used, it includes a high level of trust and tolerance, an egalitarian spirit, volunteerism, an interest in keeping informed, and participation in public affairs.
Political scientists Tom W. Rice of the University of Iowa and Jan L. Feldman of the University of Vermont have measured civic culture among ancestry groups in the U.S. They find that Americans of Scandinavian and British descent have the highest levels of civic culture, with those of French, Irish, German and Dutch descent having somewhat lower levels; those of Italian and Spanish descent have decidedly lower levels. (Spanish ancestry as measured in the study for the most part excludes Hispanic-Americans.) Furthermore, they conclude that these ethnic cultures are a continuation of the cultures in the country of origin. Thus, the 17th-century Puritan culture of England was transplanted to New England, and Minnesota saw the merging of 19th-century Swedish and German cultures.
This article was originally published with the title Civic Culture.