FEEM working papers "Note di lavoro" series

E-participation: Social Capital and the Internet

Authors: Fabio Sabatini, Francesco Sarracino
Series: Economy and Society
Editor: Giuseppe Sammarco
Keywords: Social Participation, Online Networks, Facebook, Social Trust, Social Capital, Broadband, Digital Divide, Hate Speech
JEL n.: C36, D85, O33, Z1


Studies in the social capital literature have documented two stylised facts: first, a decline in measures of social participation has occurred in many OECD countries. Second, and more recently, the success of social networking sites (SNSs) has resulted in a steep rise in online social participation. Our study adds to this body of research by conducting the first empirical assessment of how online networking affects two economically relevant aspects of social capital, i.e. trust and sociability. We address endogeneity in online networking by exploiting technological characteristics of the pre-existing voice telecommunication infrastructures that exogenously determined the availability of broadband for high-speed Internet. We find that participation in SNSs such as Facebook and Twitter has a positive effect on face-to-face interactions. However, social trust decreases with online interactions. We argue that the rising practice of hate speech may play a crucial role in the destruction of trust.


Suggested citation: Sabatini,  F., F. Sarracino (2014), 'E-participation: Social Capital and the Internet', Nota di Lavoro 81.2014, Milan, Italy: Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei



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