Putnam

Robert D. Putnam

Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, Harvard University
Areas of Expertise:
  • Civic Engagement
  • Revitalizing U.S. Democracy

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About Robert

In addition to teaching, Putnam is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association.  He has received numerous scholarly honors, including the Skytte Prize, the most prestigious global award in political science, and the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities. He has consulted for the last three American presidents, the last three British prime ministers, the last French president, prime ministers from Ireland to Singapore, and hundreds of grassroots leaders and activists in many countries.

Putnam's earlier work included research on comparative political elites, Italian politics, and globalization. Before coming to Harvard in 1979, he taught at the University of Michigan and served on the staff of the National Security Council.

Briefs

Why Democrats Need to Open Doors - And How They Can

  • Robert D. Putnam

Podcast

Publications

Better Together: Restoring the American Community (with Lewis M. Feldstein and Don Cohen) (Simon & Schuster, 2003).

Warns that the national stockpile of “social capital” – our reserve of personal bonds and fellowship – is seriously depleted, and outlines the framework for sustained, broad-based social change to restore America’s civic virtue.

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (Simon & Schuster, 2001).

Draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. 

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (with David E. Campbell) (Simon and Schuster, 2010).

Discusses three seismic shocks in America's religious landscape and explores the results, such as growing polarization and strengthening of personal interfaith ties. 

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

Argues that fundamental to the American Dream is the belief that our children will have better lives than we do, that Americans believe in equality of opportunity, limited only by one’s talent and hard work. But recent decades have left more Americans doubting this belief. In addition to illustrating newly researched national data, Putnam will tell this story through compelling coming-of-age stories of how growing up rich and poor has changed in all corners of America—in rural areas, the suburbs, and big cities—over the last several decades. 

In the News

"Politico50: Robert Putnam," Robert D. Putnam, Interview with Christopher Thomond, Politico, September 10, 2015.
Robert D. Putnam quoted in Christina Pazzanese, " The Rich and the Rest" US News & World Report, February 9, 2018.
Robert D. Putnam quoted in Nicholas Kristof, "America's Stacked Deck" New York Times, February 18, 2018.
Robert D. Putnam quoted in Alan Khazei and John Bridgeland, "Our Opportunity Nation" Boston Globe, September 9, 2016.
Guest to discuss Civic Life in Decline on Conversations with Bill Kristol, Robert D. Putnam, March 13, 2016.
Robert D. Putnam quoted in David Brooks, "The East Germans of the 21st Century" New York Times, January 29, 2018.
Interview on ‘Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis’Robert D. Putnam, Media Policy Center, March 13, 2017.
Robert D. Putnam quoted in John M. Muresianu, "Daily Katrina: Education is a Three Front War" The Harvard Crimson, March 24, 2017.
Robert D. Putnam quoted in Richard Reeves, "There’s a Better Way to Celebrate Take Your Kids to Work Day: Taking Someone Else’s Kid Instead" Quartz, April 24, 2017.
Robert D. Putnam quoted in Michael Skalicky, "Filming Takes Place in Springfield for Documentary to Air Nationwide on PBS" Quartz, April 26, 2017.
Robert D. Putnam quoted in Stell Simonton, "Out-of-School Time Organizations Play Pivotal Role" Youthtoday, May 1, 2017.
Robert D. Putnam quoted in Jim Tankersley,, "Ben Bernanke Explains What Donald Trump Gets Wrong on the Economy" Vox, June 6, 2017.
"The Growing Class Gap," Lara Putnam (with Robert D. Putnam), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 20, 2008.
"The Real Scandal the DNC Should Avoid," Lara Putnam (with Robert D. Putnam), Washington Post, November 12, 2017.