Social Capital
Predictor Assessment
Display Date

Social capital measures the resources provided by one’s social network, including social supports from close friends and family and access to information and other resources provided by extended social circles. A household’s social connections can improve access to employment opportunities and social supports that facilitate upward economic mobility and a sense of belonging in the community.

Evidence of the Relationship between Predictor and Related Outcomes

  • Putnam’s research shows the positive relationship between social capital and education, child well-being, improvements in community crime rates, health, tolerance, happiness, and economic and civic equality (Putnam 1995, 2000, and 2001). It also shows that broad declines in social capital and social engagement should be a cause for concern.
  • Researchers have studied the impact of the social capital of a household living in poverty on the household’s ability to move out of poverty. They found that a household’s connections can improve access to assets that facilitate upward economic mobility. However, forming these social connections was costly, and barriers like time and financial resources often made generating social capital difficult for households (Chantarat and Barrett 2012).
  • Researchers have also studied social capital’s impact on domains—such as health (Freese and Lutfey 2011), jobs (Fernandez, Castilla, and Moore 2000), social support (Putnam 1995), and local social control (e.g., collective efficacy)—that are linked to later-life well-being. For example, Sampson, Morenoff, and Gannon-Rowley (2002) show the importance of neighborhood effects in promoting, and potentially inhibiting, social capital formation. They show that crime rates are related to several predictors of social capital, such as neighborhood ties, patterns of interaction, social cohesion, and informal social control.

How Investments Can Influence the Predictor at State or Local Levels

Communities can try to promote social capital formation through investments in social infrastructure (e.g., public spaces), encourage and reduce barriers to civic participation, and invest in community-focused change that promotes healthy and safe neighborhoods.


The primary reference is marked with an asterisk.

Chantarat, Sommarat, and Christopher B. Barrett. 2012. “Social Network Capital, Economic Mobility, and Poverty Traps.” Journal of Economic Inequality 10 (3): 299–342.

Fernandez, Roberto M., Emilio J. Castilla, and Paul Moore. 2000. “Social Capital at Work: Networks and Employment at a Phone Center.” American Journal of Sociology 105 (5): 1288–356.

Freese, Jeremy, and Karen Lutfey. 2011. “Fundamental Causality: Challenges of an Animating Concept for Medical Sociology.” In Handbook of the Sociology of Health, Illness, and Healing: A Blueprint for the 21st Century, edited by Bernice A. Pescosolido, Jack K. Martin, Jane D. McLeod, and Anne Rogers, 67–81. New York: Springer.

Putnam, Robert D. 1995. “Tuning In, Tuning Out: The Strange Disappearance of Social Capital in America.” Political Science and Politics 28 (4): 664–83.

* ———. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

———. 2001. “Social Capital: Measurement and Consequences.” Canadian Journal of Policy Research 2:41–51.

Sampson, Robert J., Jeffrey D. Morenoff, and Thomas Gannon-Rowley. 2002. “Assessing ‘Neighborhood Effects’: Social Processes and New Directions in Research.” Annual Review of Sociology 28:443–78.


Related outcome: Active civic engagement

Mobility dimension engaged: Economic success; being valued in community

Couple Walking Illustration