The Community Foundation awarded a Better Together Community Building Grant to the Hopewell Borough Playground Project.

We are all familiar with many measures of community life — real estate values; school enrollments, achievement and taxes; traffic statistics; acres of preserved open space; income; crime. But these statistics miss many quality-of-life factors such as how well you know and trust your neighbors, merchants, co-workers; how well we support our local non-profit organizations by volunteering; how often we just kick back and have fun with family and friends; and how engaged we are as voters and citizens in local affairs? The Central New Jersey Social Capital Benchmark Survey provides a new lens through which to view and understand ourselves.

The Central New Jersey Regional Social Capital Benchmark Survey

In 2007, the Princeton Area Community Foundation, in partnership with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation, commissioned the Central New Jersey Social Capital Benchmark Survey, conducted by Marc Weiner, Faculty Fellow and Associate Director of the Bloustein Center for Survey Research. The phone survey interviewed 870 people across Mercer County and southern sections of Somerset and Middlesex Counties. Each interview lasted 19 minutes and 35% of those contacted completed the survey. The data have a margin of error of 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.

Download the Key Findings from the Study (PDF)



Why did the Community Foundation commission the study?

The Community Foundation’s grantmaking since 2005 has been based in the concept of social capital as articulated by Robert Putnam of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in Bowling Alone; and researched nationally in 2000 and 2006. The Community Foundation wanted to anchor its work in local data; and highlight the importance of social capital to strong and healthy communities.

What is social capital?

“Social capital” refers to the friendships, acquaintances, and working relationships that tie people together. The bonds of social capital make neighborhoods safer, schools better, and people healthier. When individuals are invested in each other and their communities, they are more likely to vote, volunteer, care for one another, and cooperate even when they have differences. Social capital has both individual and collective elements that affect our lives and the well-being of our businesses and towns.

Why does it matter?

A growing body of research shows that communities with higher levels of social capital are likely to see more educational achievement, better-performing governments, stronger economies, and less crime and violence. People living in these communities actually report being happier, healthier, and living longer.

Want to learn more? Download a Q&A with more details about the study and its findings.

Where social capital is strong, it is easier to mobilize people to tackle problems. It is easier to take advantage of opportunities that benefit everyone. Take a look at our brochure Social Capital: Better Together and email us at with your ideas for more ways to encourage social capital in our communities.

What grants are available to help build social capital in central New Jersey?

The Community Foundation awards grants to projects that work to expand social capital in the area through its Greater Mercer Grants. Click here for guidelines and details.

How can I support efforts to build social capital in Central New Jersey?

Click here to learn more about community grantmaking at the Community Foundation and how to participate.

Are there other links and resources to help me learn more?

Yes! Click here for the Saguaro Seminar at Harvard and the 2006 national data.

Want to learn more? Download the key findings from the study and a Q&A with more details.