Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Yaojun Li
Chapter 9: The efficacy of neighbourhood attitudes as measures of social capital: returning to norms and values and the centrality of networks
A growing number of studies demonstrate how the characteristics of communities (for example, how ethnically heterogeneous or socioeconomically disadvantaged they are) can affect an individual’s attitudes towards their neighbours and neighbourhoods; in particular, their trust in neighbours (henceforth TiN) (Putnam, 2007; Laurence, 2011). Applying these attitudinal measures as indicators of social capital, these studies have concluded that such characteristics of a community therefore undermine social capital. Given the rising importance attributed to social capital as a possible explanation for differences in life outcomes between communities, such as their levels of violent crime (Sampson et al., 1997) or health outcomes (Kawachi et al., 1999), it is important to understand what factors cultivate or erode social capital. However, a significant criticism levelled at such research is how far the variables frequently applied to measure social capital actually capture its presence due to a distinct ‘lack of knowledge of the validity of current [social capital] measures’ (Moore et al., 2009: 536; Haynes, 2009; Fine, 2010). Considering the purported benefits of social capital, we believe it is crucial to try and understand the efficacy of attitudes such as TiN for measuring social capital in a community. Exploring the validity of these attitudes as measures of social capital, however, is a difficult task.
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