Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Yaojun Li
Chapter 18: Social capital, social cohesion and cognitive attainment
The concept of social capital is as popular as difficult to define precisely. For example, Adler and Kwon (2002) defined social capital as ‘the good-will resulting from social relations’. This vagueness facilitates alternative operationalizations and measurements but can also generate misunderstandings (Portes, 2000). In this chapter, we review the concept’s many connotations, distinguishing social capital according to its functions as public, club or common goods. We also distinguish social capital’s productivity – a function of groups and communities’ degree of social cohesion – from participation in its returns – a function of individuals’ resources. We propose measurements for each and investigate the association between all forms of social capital and 15-year-old students’ cognitive attainment across OECD countries, using 2006 PISA data. Applying multilevel models, we offer a comprehensive account of the role played by social capital and social cohesion on the acquisition of cognitive skills.
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