Being Prepared and Staying Connected: Scouting's Influence on Social Capital and Community Involvement


  • The author will share all data and coding for replication purposes. The current study was funded through a generous grant (ID# 15465) from the John M. Templeton Foundation to the Program on Prosocial Behavior at the Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John M. Templeton Foundation. The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions on earlier drafts.

Direct correspondence to Edward C. Polson, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice, Messiah College, One College Avenue, Suite 3057, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 〈〉.



In recent years, scholars have become concerned about the effects that declining levels of social capital are having on community life in the United States. Data suggest that Americans are less likely to interact with neighbors and less likely to participate in community groups than they were in the past. Nevertheless, researchers have found that participation in some types of organizations has a positive impact on social capital and civic involvement. Each year, millions of American youth participate in programs designed to promote positive youth development. Here, we examine the effect that participation in one of the largest youth organizations, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), has on adult social capital and community involvement.


Utilizing a national survey of adult males, we compare measures of social capital and community involvement for former Scouts and non-Scouts.


Our findings suggest that level of involvement in the Boy Scouts is significantly related to measures of adult social capital and community engagement.


Scouting tends to have a significant impact on the lives of its most committed members. Future research must continue to explore the long-term effects of participation in youth organizations.