Assessing Measurements of Social Capital: Investigation of Four Typical Social Capital Measurements

Nan Lin and Hang Young Lee, Duke Sociology
Social capital has been one of the most salient concepts in social science. Although it conceptually delivers a coherent idea of resources embedded in social networks, several different empirical measurements have been employed across the disciplines. Four measurements have been most widely used: micro-level social capital is typically measured by the Position (PG) and Name Generator (NG), while macro-level social capital by generalized trust and voluntary organization participation. Nevertheless, little is known about whether those four measurements capture similar or different aspects of social capital. Using the 2008 SC-USA data specifically designed for the comparison of social capital measurements, we examine the relationship across those four measurements. The results show that each measurement captures different aspects of social capital. At the micro level the PG more captures resources accessed through weak ties. By contrast, the NG more measures them accessed through strong ties. At the macro level generalized trust is not associated with voluntary organization participation. Contrary to social capital theory, people who participate in various voluntary organizations do not show a high level of generalized trust. Intriguingly, a cross-level examination shows a selective affinity between two micro and two macro social capital measurements. Generalized trust is associated only with the NG, while voluntary organization participation is only with the PG. This finding suggests that strong rather than weak ties enhance generalized trust and that voluntary organization participation facilitates the development of weak than strong ties.
September, 17 2013 | 12:30 - 2:00 | 230E Gross Hall

Return to seminar series