Social Capital Correlations

September 30, 2012

Top of the morning to you Señor László Cseh.  It sounds like you built up a lot of social capital in Bangalore, Delhi, Amarnath, and Aligarh.  I did go through the social capital statistics by state that you pointed out.  When I just visually inspected the ranked list of states by social capital, an interesting connection jumped to my mind.  

Earlier that week I had been looking at a variety of health and healthcare statistics.  The states with low social capital seemed very much in correspondence with states with high percentages of diagnosed diabetes according to the CDC. Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama are at one end of both social capital and diabetes.  Montana, Vermont, and the Dakotas are at the other end.

In the same place, the CDC also gives data for obesity and for physical inactivity, which are clearly correlated both with each other and with diabetes.  What are the causal relationships?  (I still intend to put something up here about Rubin-style causal inference.)  Does physical inactivity cause obesity?  Not according to an observational study comparing Westerners with members of one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer societies.  According to the study, calorie expenditure of hunter-gatherers is the same as Americans and Europeans, meaning that the obesity problems here are all about diet, not inactivity.  One of the authors writes:

“We’re getting fat because we eat too much, not because we’re sedentary. Physical activity is very important for maintaining physical and mental health, but we aren’t going to Jazzercise our way out of the obesity epidemic.”

So what about social capital and diabetes?  I thought that that would be a pretty neat relationship to uncover.  After I mentioned this thought to you outside the confines of the blog and you did some poking around, you found that exactly this study has already been done. 


Exactly the same.

So why might this be so?  One thought I have is that perhaps in the absence of social capital and the presence of bowling alone, a person has no connections to peers and only connections to advertisers, and is thus only influenced by advertisers.  Influence of junk food advertising perhaps leads to a bad diet.  An opinion dynamics-based hypothesis for such phenomena is discussed in this report from Sandia.

Public health statistics is an interesting topic, no? I’m looking forward to learning more about it starting in a couple of weeks.

Finally, let me say that I’m happy to have you (certainly not a bozo) walking the halls of the Yorktown building, even though that walking isn’t purportedly helping you on the body weight front.



  1. […] Ashvins The Ultimate Machinists « Social Capital Correlations Adapting to the External World Internally October 11, […]

  2. […] had mentioned opinion dynamics in a previous post and your work at WIDS was also on this topic, but with a decision-making twist.  I found it […]

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