Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Yaojun Li
Chapter 10: The position generator approach to social capital research: measurements and results
In the last three decades social capital has become a popular research concept in social sciences. In its network-resources approach, social capital can be defined as the resources embedded in social networks that can be accessed or used by individuals for instrumental actions (Bourdieu, 1986; Portes, 1998; Volker and Flap, 1999; Lin, 2001; Li, 2010). Because this perspective focuses on resources, it illuminates how social capital produces and reproduces social inequalities. Along with the growing popularity of the social capital concept, multiple instruments have been developed to measure it, such as name generators, resource generators and position generators (Van der Gaag, 2005; Lin and Erickson, 2008). Of particular note amongst these is the position generator approach developed by Lin (Lin and Dumin, 1986; Lin, 2001). As compared with the name or the resource generators, position generators have the advantage that they are easy to use, have high response rates and short question times, are applicable to different research settings and contexts and, unlike most name generators, are unbiased towards strong ties. Position generators map network members’ occupational positions by asking respondents whether they know anyone in their social network with an occupation from a limited and yet representative list of occupations (Lin and Dumin, 1986; Lin et al., 2001; Van der Gaag, 2005). These occupational positions are considered to be good indicators of the resources embedded in a social network.
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