Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Social Capital
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Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Social Capital

Edited by Yaojun Li

Social capital is fundamentally concerned with resources in social relations. This Handbook brings together leading scholars from around the world to address important questions on the determinants, manifestations and consequences of social capital. Combining cutting-edge theory and appropriate data and methods, it presents a challenge to both social capital researchers interested in explaining social inequality and to policy-makers with responsibility for designing effective measures for enhancing social cohesion.
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Chapter 9: The efficacy of neighbourhood attitudes as measures of social capital: returning to norms and values and the centrality of networks

James Laurence


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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