Sidney Verba

Sidney Verba is Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard University.

Recent Articles

The Big Tilt

It's not just how many take part in politics; it's who. Inequality is more pronounced in America than in other democracies, and it's growing.

R ecent debate about American society has focused attention on declining civic participation and the consequent fraying of the social fabric. Are declining bowling league memberships evidence of the erosion of civil society? Or are bowling leagues just being replaced by youth soccer leagues? Lost in the discussion is the fact that what matters is not only the amount of civic activity but its distribution, not just how many people take part but who they are. In discussions of declining civic engagement, one widely noted trend is a decline in electoral turnout: From a recent high of 63 percent in the 1960 election, voting in presidential elections diminished gradually, until in 1996 it dipped to its lowest level since 1924-49 percent. What is less frequently mentioned, however, is that the falloff in turnout has been uneven across educational groups. Between 1968 and 1992, turnout rates among those who never finished high school declined by about a third; among college graduates turnout...