Chapter 2: Measuring social capital
Social scientists from different disciplines have proposed a wide range of definitions and methodologies to measure social capital. Adler and Kwon (2002) collected the most influential, yet this accurate review did not clarify the terms of the debate. Thus, the definition and measurement of social capital remain contested issues. Two factors explain this lack of consensus. The first is the possibility to overstretch a vague and historically rich concept. All indicators used to measure social capital try to quantify an intangible reality, which eludes every attempt to clarify (Durlauf 2002). The second factor is the typical lack of communication within the academic world (Paldam 2000: 632), as new definitions and measurements that are hard to compare are proposed by all and sundry. For these reasons a new definition is not tendered. Instead, this chapter will illustrate the reasons that contributed to the selection of Putnam’s definition. We will focus on the concept in operation, showing how the proposed index is suitable for investigating social capital at the regional level. Putnam defined social capital as a combination of networks, social norms and trust: ‘social capital refers to features of social organizations such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit’ (Putnam 1995: 67). Social capital is a multidimensional concept and for this reason, we will measure it by combining three separate dimensions: formal social networks, informal social networks and social trust.
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