Civic participation can upgrade your social status

New York, Oct 6 (IANS) Want to rub shoulders with the Who’s Who of society? Just start participating in voluntary civic organisations such as religious or leisure groups, new research advises.

The study found that people who participate in civic activities are more likely to connect to high-status people and accrue significantly better social status than their less-outgoing peers.

“It turns out that participating in voluntary civic groups may be a crucial social activity in reducing social capital deficits and fostering the ties that bridge the divide between upper- and lower-class status lines,” said study author professor Richard Benton from University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US.

Shared social spaces such as the workplace, schools and neighbourhood are particularly important for forming non-kin relationships, but these settings are typically segregated by social class traits, Benton said.

The study’s findings suggest that civic participation influences the relationship between one’s own social position and access to high-status social network contacts – that is, to people with power and influence.

“Ordinarily, a person’s social class is a strong predictor of the status of his or her network contacts. People tend to know others who are socially similar to themselves and this means that low-status individuals tend to suffer social capital deficits and to know fewer high-status people,” Benton said.

“These findings indicate that, independent of one’s own social class background, civic participation improves an individual’s access to high-status network contacts but also helps strengthen people’s relationships with high-status contacts,” he noted.

Although civic groups can be segregated into cliques that may reinforce existing social ties among “in-group” members, results suggest that they have a moderating effect.

“Plumbers and lawyers may not interact all that much in the work world, but when they participate in a civic organisation, they have both broadened the diversity of their respective social networks,” Benton explained.

In other words, it is not all about hobnobbing with the rich and powerful at exclusive events.

The study is scheduled to be published in the journal Social Networks.

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