We argue that social capital can be the link between the private and the public spheres in the view of democracy held by John Dewey, which in turn is a way to interpret the “external” role of Bildung. We apply this reasoning to the analysis of the relationship between social capital and human development in Italy, a country with strong geographical variations in social capital. Because interactions may have a strong proximity effect, we have estimated econometric models that take into account this feature. We find strong spatial correlation: there is diffusion of human development among the Provinces. The social capital index and the civicness scale are always significant and positive: larger social capital is related to larger human development and vice versa. Mobility variables are significant and indicate that larger mobility inside the province increases human development, whereas larger mobility outside the province reduces it. Overall, we find a strong link between geography, Bildung and human development.
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