Edited by Yaojun Li
Chapter 11: Formal and informal social connections in the UK
A good understanding of the nature of informal social connections has an important bearing not only on social capital research, but also on social stratification research in general. In the last few decades, there has been a large amount of work on social mobility and social inequality in Britain conducted by sociologists and, more recently, economists. Whilst there are debates among leading researchers in the field about the direction and extent of change in relative mobility in the country (Heath and Payne, 2000; Blanden and Gregg, 2004; Goldthorpe and Mills, 2004, 2008; Lambert et al., 2007; Li and Devine, 2011, 2014; Devine and Li, 2013), there is little disagreement about how social inequalities in mobility chances will affect the formation and development of informal social ties and how this will, in turn, affect people’s civic engagement. Owing to the lack of appropriate data, little is known about the shape and structure of informal social life, nor how mobility and other socio-cultural attributes such as marital, gender, health and ethno-religious statuses affect the choice of kin over non-kin in people’s social life. In this analysis, we combine social mobility and social capital research traditions in examining the nature of people’s informal social networks and their links with formal civic engagement.
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