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Representative David Schweikert - Vice Chairman

Online and Disconnected: COVID-19’s Shift of Social Capital Online

Online and Disconnected: COVID-19’s Shift of Social Capital Online

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The COVID-19 pandemic increased Americans’ reliance on the Internet in ways that are still not fully understood. For many, the Internet became the primary means by which they worked, learned, and socialized.


  • Social capital—the strength of relationships between people, families, and communities—has been declining over the past 50 years, well before the start of the pandemic.

  • The pandemic introduced further disruptions to civil society by moving 90 percent of students into virtual classrooms and causing over 60 percent of all work hours to be done remotely. This disruption was temporary in the case of remote school and likely permanent in the case of remote work.

  • Data do not yet exist to fully examine the pandemic’s effect of shifting many other activities online, but early evidence indicates that more of our social lives are permanently moving online.

  • Relative to pre-pandemic levels, we find that children are more likely to spend at least 4 hours per day online and less likely to participate in clubs or other in-person activities, that social activities in the workplace remain suppressed, and that religious institutions more frequently use digital technology to conduct their services.

  • Understanding the impact of these trends on social capital is essential as the Internet becomes a more prominent mediator of our social lives.

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