American Sociological Association

Community Entitativity and Civic Engagement

This study applies the social psychological concept of entitativity to communities of place. Entitativity is the property of a collectivity that differentiates a coherent social group from an aggregate of individuals. This concept, which considers aspects of group life such as boundaries, interaction, shared goals, proximity, and similarity, provides a framework for understanding communities of place as a special type of social group. Using survey data from 9,962 residents of 99 Iowa communities, this study assesses how community entitativity relates to forms of civic engagement (e.g., voluntary citizen participation) in small, rural towns. Results indicate community‐level components of entitativity—including rurality, residential stability, sociability, and shared goals—are associated with greater individual‐level resident civic engagement. These findings suggest community entitativity can impact resident motivations and attitudes, with the potential to activate local social capital and contribute to successful community outcomes. Implications for the study of social capital, neighborhood effects, place attachment, and sense of community are discussed.


Monica M. Whitham





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