Thesis title and description:
"The Social Stories of Economic Struggle in the Rust Belt"
Throughout the 2016 election campaign, journalists and pundits devoted thousands of hours to highlight the pessimism and frustration of middle-class workers in declining industries, such as manufacturing. The pain, they reported, felt most acute in the Rust Belt region. My project examines whether and how social capital can enhance (or hinder) a community’s “social resilience” to stagnated social mobility and manufacturing decline by fostering a particular set of narratives through shared meanings and attitudes. I hope to be able to construct a picture of how membership in social, political, or religious organizations -- key producers of social capital -- shapes the stories people tell about their economic challenges and how they respond to hardship. If vigorous social networks do help communities confront challenges from macro-level phenomena, e.g. globalization, then cities and states will be best served by investing in mechanisms to improve social capital as a way to stave off the negative outcomes from manufacturing decline or widespread job loss.