How Social Capital Arises in Areas: New Studies

Authors of ‘How social capital arises in areas’ in Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health, Tor Iversen and Tigist Woldetsadik Sommeno, summarise their chapter.

Manusing euro money to invest in a new small business
Image credit: AlexSava

By Tor Iversen1 and Tigist Woldetsadik Sommeno2

Folland and Iversen, FI (2014) reviewed Literature published prior to 2012, and they briefly review these findings at the beginning of each description by the present authors of the newer studies. These studies from 2012 on offer both contrasts as well as support for the earlier work, however they also ask new questions and present new methods. Throughout this summary of Chapter 4 of Elgar’s Companion to Social Capital, SC, we have chosen to emphasize results on trust behaviors.

Age and Social Capital

FI reports that earlier research found that memberships in formal social groups followed an inverted U shaped relation with age, rising to a middle aged peak and then declining to reliance on family in old age. Schwadel and Stuart (2012) returned to and applied an Age-Period-Cohort (APC) method and their results supported the inverted U pattern on memberships and added that during the growth period people increase their reliance on contacts outside their neighborhoods. Evans et al, (2013) experimented with the trust game finding that trusting behaviors increase from kindergartners to older elementary school students, concluding that trust behavior begins before adolescence. Paulin and Haase (2015) study a large international sample finding that older subjects show higher trust.

Income and Social Capital

FI reported earlier studies finding that low levels of income inequality tend to encourage growth in SC. Fischer and Torgler (2013) studied 21,000 subjects in 26 countries finding that greater income inequality tends to lower trust in public institutions, except for religious ones. Ioakimidis and Heijke (2016) find that in countries with better welfare programs they find no differences in trust and income per capita and education. Hargrave and Heap (2013) by experimenting with the trust game find that income inequality has no effect on outcomes unless it is known to all players. Razmi and Ghaffary (2015) found that awareness of corruption in public institutions undermines SC levels.

Gender and Social Capital

FI reported that from earlier findings that women have fewer memberships in formal social organizations. Evans et al, (2013) reported that kindergarten girls were more trusting than boys but that this pattern was reversed by elementary school. Dittrich (2013) applied experimental trust games and found some gender differences.

Education and Social Capital

FI reported from earlier results that human capital, with it’s emphasis on education, has the most robust positive connection with SC. Frederikson et al, (2016) studies World Values Survey data from 51 countries finding that while education can positively effect “trust in most people”, this relation depends on the international Corruption Perception Index in the public sector. Hakhveridian and Mayne (2012) also find this for 13 Western European Countrires. Here the CPI is scaled from 0 to 10, with higher values indicating a public sector freer of corruption. Two graphs illustrate this relation, the first illustrates the “gap” between the more educated and the lesser educated, and the second shows that this gap arises because the better educated are the most receptive to lower corruption in the public sector.

Culture and Social Capital

FI reported better social capital in the more northern cities, states and countries. Bigoni et al, (2016) returned to Putnam’s findings for northern versus southern Italy, applying the trust game. They concluded that better land and higher elevation may contribute to the northern advantages.

Ethnic Diversity and Social Capital

Putnam (2007) found that because homogeneity of the population is temporarily harmed by immigration this may temporarily harm SC. Wang and Steiner (2015) studied 68 countries finding support for Putnam’s view. Robinson (2016) studied bordering countries in two African cases, concluding that positive views with national identification remove some barriers to SC.

Marriage and Social Capital

FI reported that while some thought that marriage was simply a form of SC, others thought that the stronger bonds of marriage could limit making outside social connections. Viitanen (2014) suggests that parental divorce is marginally harmful to future growth of trust in the children. Though a father’s higher education benefits trust, as does the mother’s education. Jaffee et al, (2013) found that marriage reduces antisocial behavior in men.


Clearly SC is augmented by many factors. Though several studies revise these views due to the complexity of other factors. Complete references can be found in Chapter 4.


1.      Tor Iversen is Professor in Health Economics at the Department of Health Management and Health Economics, University of Oslo, Norway.

2.      Tigist Woldetsadik Semmeno is a PhD research fellow in International Business at the University of Agder (UiA), Norway.

Tor Iversen and Tigist Woldetsadik Semmeno’s chapter can be read online here.

Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health, edited by Sherman Folland and Eric Nauenberg is available in print and online via Elgaronline.

You can read chapter 1 for free on Elgaronline here.

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