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In recent years, scholars have become concerned about the effects that declining levels of social capital are having on community life in the United States. Data suggest that Americans are less likely to interact with neighbors and less likely to participate in community groups than they were in the past. Nevertheless, researchers have found that participation in some types of organizations has a positive impact on social capital and civic involvement. Each year, millions of American youth participate in programs designed to promote positive youth development. Here, we examine the effect that participation in one of the largest youth organizations, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), has on adult social capital and community involvement.


Utilizing a national survey of adult males, we compare measures of social capital and community involvement for former Scouts and non‐Scouts.


Our findings suggest that level of involvement in the Boy Scouts is significantly related to measures of adult social capital and community engagement.


Scouting tends to have a significant impact on the lives of its most committed members. Future research must continue to explore the long‐term effects of participation in youth organizations.


Originally published in Social Science Quarterly, 94(3):758–76.