Why the Garden Club Couldn’t SaveYoungstown: Civic Infrastructure andMobilization in Economic Crises
Sean SaffordMIT Working Paper IPC-04-002March 2004
This paper seeks to understand how the structure of civic relationships shapes trajectories of economic changethrough an examination of two well-matched Rust Belt cities: Allentown, Pennsylvania and Youngstown, Ohio.Despite sharing very similar economic histories, Allentown and Youngstown have nevertheless takendramatically different post-industrial paths since the 1970s. The paper analyses how the intersection of economic and civic social networks shapes the strategic choice and possibilities for mobilization of keyorganizational actors. The analysis shows that differences in the way that civic and economic relationshipsintersected facilitated collective action in one location and impeded it in the other. However, in contrast tomuch of the literature on “social capital”, the results indicate the downsides of network density, particularly intimes of acute economic crisis. More important than network density is that the structure of social relationshipsfacilitate interaction—and mobilization—across social, political and economic divisions.