Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Urban historians have documented the decline of downtowns across America. Downtown Tulsa was no exception; it experienced a decline starting not long after the above postcard portrayed a booming mainstreet (looking north) in the late 1950's or early 196o's.

Sociologists interested in changing American demographics have paid close attention to declining social capital and its affect on communities. Sprawl has often been named as an important factor in the loss of social capital, but students of social capital have paid relatively little attention to the effects of downtown decline as an independent agent affecting social capital.

Americans have joined volunteer organizations for nearly every purpose- business, civic, religious, fraternal, benevolent and patriotic. My research will examine, through interviews, photography and geospatial analysis, the changing numbers and locations of volunteer associations over the period 1950-2000 in my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the beginning of this period, nearly all of these groups clustered in or near downtown; over time they migrated steadily away.

Was social inclusiveness fostered by this clustering, and if so, did it disappear along with the community's once-thriving downtown?

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