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

  • Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series

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 10: The position generator approach to social capital research: measurements and results

Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe and Yaojun Li


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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