Social Capital as a Policy Resource


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Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more. Social network analysis SNA has become increasingly popular in many scientific applications and is applied widely in human resource development HRD research. This article offers a look at the methodological basics of analyzing social networks and the major concepts in social capital theory from the social network perspective. After an analysis of hypothetical network data and application of social capital theory, the case shows how some actors in the network can create social capital from strong supportive relations, whereas others might expect to gain brokerage advantages by playing a role in structural holes.

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Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Abstract Social network analysis SNA has become increasingly popular in many scientific applications and is applied widely in human resource development HRD research. When variables representing the small definition of neighbourhood were added to the model, he found the probability of dropout rates was reduced with high concentrations of vocationally qualified adults, counteracting the effect of the variable representing the large definition of neighbourhood.

The socio-economic status of the small neighbourhood also was important with higher status neighbourhoods. Overman concluded that the second mechanism was more likely; that is, local labour market conditions influence educational drop-out rates. Starting with a cross-section from the LSAY, Andrews, Green and Mangan showed that neighbourhood effects had a significant effect on unemployment in both high and low income areas.

They then used the panel nature of the LSAY to show important unobserved heterogeneity. Jensen and Seltzer estimated the effects of individual, family and neighbourhood effects on youths' post-secondary education aspirations. They used a survey of Melbourne secondary school students and found significant neighbourhood effects in youths' educational aspirations. They found substantial variation between the educational expectations of youths living in low and high-unemployment neighbourhoods.

Most of the literature reviewed in this section has focused on either ghetto communities or highly disadvantaged inner-city neighbourhoods in the US. That significant neighbourhood effects were found in Melbourne, a city with less heterogeneous characteristics than American cities, indicates neighbourhood externalities are not specific to particular communities. They do not operate solely in neighbourhoods at either end of the wealth spectrum.

Criticisms of an insufficient sample size could be levelled at Jensen and Seltzer's research. They were unable to identify the transmission mechanisms through which neighbourhood externalities affect educational aspirations, yet they did find evidence of the epidemic models described above. Youths were asked to report their peers' education plans and these were found to influence youths' aspirations, even when coupled with a neighbourhood characteristic in the regression model.

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While this was not a perfect measure of the influence of peers' aspirations, it did suggest promising avenues for further research comparing the interaction of peer and neighbourhood effects. As yet, no consistent findings on the impact of neighbourhood externalities on youth outcomes exist. While some research has found neighbourhoods play a significantly large role in determining outcomes, other research has found the influence to be insignificant.

Variation in estimation methods, the types of neighbourhood proxies and diagnostic testing have hindered progress towards commonly accepted heuristics in neighbourhood research.

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Substantial variation exists in findings on the influence of neighbourhood externalities. Neighbourhood externalities have been found to significantly influence youths' educational outcomes Crane ; Borjas Several studies have found no significant neighbourhood effect Brooks-Gunn et al. Inconsistency in the findings of previous research stems from problems in correctly specifying neighbourhood externalities.

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A number of studies have found only particular neighbourhood proxies to significantly influence socio-economic outcomes Corcoran et al. Difficulties in estimating neighbourhood externalities can occur if neighbourhood proxies are incomplete or endogenous to family characteristics, or if unmeasured family characteristics affect both youths' outcomes and their residential location or choice of school.

Recent research suggests that neighbourhood proxies that measure characteristics analogous or proximate to the dependant variable may better capture neighbourhood externalities. For example, a neighbourhood proxy that measures levels of education within a neighbourhood may provide a more accurate estimation of the influence of neighbourhood externalities on the education of youths living in that neighbourhood Ginther et al.

Manski explored difficulties in identifying neighbourhood externalities in his analysis of what he termed the 'reflection problem'. This occurs with analysis of 'whether the average behaviour in some group influences the behaviour of individuals that comprise the group' Manski , p.

Critical to overcoming this problem is the relationship between sets of independent variables and the outcome variable. Neighbourhood characteristics that are more related, or what Ginther et al.

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Social capital is a currently fashionable term—a fashionable metaphor really—and may well be a useful one. It is largely a rebadging of what sociologists previously called social networks. Measures of social capital discussed below are quite largely measures of linkage, of networks. Definitions of social capital range from the relatively narrow to the broad and have been much debated. Some economists, including two Nobel Laureates, have objected to use of the term on the grounds that it suggests a misleading analogy with physical capital Arrow ; Solow Investment in physical capital, Arrow points out, always involves foregoing current benefits for future gains, and physical capital can be sold or otherwise transferred to others.

Neither is necessarily true of social capital. Contrary to Arrow's view it could reasonably be argued that the same points could be made about differences between physical capital and human capital.

Social Capital – the wealth all around us

Human capital like social capital is not lost if transferred to someone else e. A very narrow definition of social capital is given in a recent review of the literature by the American economic theorist, Joel Sobel , who based his definition on that of one of the earliest writers in the field, the French sociologist, Raymond Bourdieu Sobel wrote that 'social capital describes circumstances in which individuals can use membership in groups and networks to secure benefits'.

Notice that this definition makes social capital an attribute of individuals albeit in relation to others; that is, in a social context and that it says nothing about the frequency or quality of interactions among group or network members. That is, it says nothing about rates of participation or degrees of trust and reciprocity. An advantage of this narrow definition is that it concentrates solely on structure groups, networks and leaves open for empirical investigation the causes and consequences, costs and benefits of social capital.

A possible disadvantage is that the definition does not point towards a sensible way of determining whether an individual's social capital is going up or down, unless one assumes that if a person joins more groups and networks they will automatically gain more benefits. Partly on these grounds, Stone prefers a somewhat broader definition. She distinguishes between the 'structure' and 'content' of social capital.

By 'structure' she means networks measured on various dimensions including size, density membership as a percentage of eligibles, e.


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By 'content' she means mainly the prevalence of relations of trust and reciprocity within the structures. Using this definition, we infer that social capital can be thought of as 'structure multiplied by content'; that is, an individual has more social capital the more structures they belong to and the greater the degree of trust and reciprocity within those structures. Notice that this definition also leaves open questions about the causes and consequences of networks, and whether particular networks are beneficial or harmful to society as a whole e.

In this formulation, a distinction is made between 'bridging' organisations—organisations that cooperate with and build bridges to other organisations—and 'bonding' organisations whose members seek only to benefit each other. This formulation was explicitly a response to critics who pointed out 'the downside of social capital'; the near-certainty that some organisations and networks have negative social consequences e.

Against Putnam's revised formulation, it can be argued that all organisations have bonding aspects; they cannot be classified straightforwardly as bonding or bridging. Further, defining out of social capital those networks and organisations which only look after their own members may have the effect of discouraging research on them, and so limit our ability to accurately assess the net benefits of all networks.

This last task should, logically speaking, involve subtracting the harm done by some from the benefits produced by others. Another definitional issue is whether it is preferable to view social capital as a property of individuals or collectivities, including states or society as a whole. Our own preference is to begin by defining and measuring social capital as a property of individuals see section 5. Individual social capital may generate positive or negative externalities that must be taken into account in assessing overall social benefits and costs.

Put another way, we think it best to begin by treating social capital as a stock possessed by individuals and then investigate the flows and outcomes resulting from use of this stock. In section 5 , we will go on to suggest reasons why it can also be useful to aggregate the stocks of individuals to provide measures of the stocks of say a local community, region or nation.

Only by doing so can we assess whether society's total social capital is increasing or decreasing. But it still remains an empirical question whether existing or additional stocks have beneficial or harmful social, economic and political consequences. We should never simply assume the more social capital, the better. This section discusses the sources or antecedents of social capital. The argument is that trust and reciprocity develop quite 'naturally' in stable families and in ethnically homogeneous groups, especially immigrant groups.

It is also clear that better educated people are more likely than the less educated to participate in political and other civic activities. Societies and localities that have high and relatively equal incomes are also characterised by high levels of social capital.

Silvia Domínguez

But what if a particular society or locality lacks social capital?

Social Capital as a Policy Resource Social Capital as a Policy Resource
Social Capital as a Policy Resource Social Capital as a Policy Resource
Social Capital as a Policy Resource Social Capital as a Policy Resource
Social Capital as a Policy Resource Social Capital as a Policy Resource
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