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Does "community social capital" contribute to population health?

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  • Folland, Sherman
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    Abstract

    Robert Putnam showed that a social capital index, created as a weighted sum of 14 variables chosen to describe the civic degree of sociability and community mindedness, is correlated with many community outcomes, such as education, child well-being, crime, and the total mortality rate. Although correlation does not establish causation, we can find that in a large number of studies this index, a selection of its elements, or similar measures register as significantly correlated with health variables, virtually always in a direction consistent with the hypothesis that social capital improves health. The potential benefit of this relationship is substantial, especially if it proves to be robust to differences in time and place, statistical contexts, and ultimately if the relation can be supported to be causal. This paper subjects the social capital and health hypothesis to an expanded set of rigorous tests, which, by surviving, it becomes stronger or, by failing, its weaknesses are better revealed. The paper seeks to extend this body of research by a combination of study characteristics that are each relatively unusual in social capital and health research. Though causality cannot be established by these tests, the work shows that the association of social capital with health is quite robust when challenged in the following ways: (1) seven different health measures are studied, including five mortality rates; (2) the 48 contiguous states are observed at six points in time covering the years from 1978 to 1998 over four year intervals, thus forming a panel; (3) the multivariate tests feature economic variables from the production of health literature; and (4) a statistical method (instrumental variables) is applied to account for the possibility that omitted variables are confounding the social capital estimates. The results and the discussion find cases for which the social capital and health hypothesis performs only weakly, but, on the whole, the hypothesis is remarkably robust to these variations.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 64 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 11 (June)
    Pages: 2342-2354

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:64:y:2007:i:11:p:2342-2354

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    Keywords: USA Social capital Community health;

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    Cited by:
    1. Fiorillo, Damiano & Sabatini, Fabio, 2011. "Structural social capital and health in Italy," MPRA Paper 32367, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Sujarwoto & Gindo Tampubolon, 2011. "Child health and mothers’ social capital in Indonesia through crisis," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 14911, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
    3. De Clercq, B. & Vyncke, V. & Hublet, A. & Elgar, F.J. & Ravens-Sieberer, U. & Currie, C. & Hooghe, M. & Ieven, A. & Maes, L., 2012. "Social capital and social inequality in adolescents’ health in 601 Flemish communities: A multilevel analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 202-210.
    4. Kritsotakis, George & Vassilaki, Maria & Chatzi, Leda & Georgiou, Vaggelis & Philalithis, Anastassios E. & Kogevinas, Manolis & Koutis, Antonis, 2011. "Maternal social capital and birth outcomes in the mother–child cohort in Crete, Greece (Rhea study)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(11), pages 1653-1660.
    5. Yamamura, Eiji, 2011. "Differences in the effect of social capital on health status between workers and non-workers," MPRA Paper 32064, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Muennig, Peter & Cohen, Alison K. & Palmer, Aileen & Zhu, Wenyi, 2013. "The relationship between five different measures of structural social capital, medical examination outcomes, and mortality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 18-26.
    7. Fiorillo, Damiano, 2013. "Friends and health of the workers in Italy," MPRA Paper 44270, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. B. d'Hombres & L. Rocco & M. Suhrcke & M. McKee, 2010. "Does social capital determine health? Evidence from eight transition countries," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(1), pages 56-74.
    9. Chen, Danhong & Yang, Tse-Chuan, 2014. "The pathways from perceived discrimination to self-rated health: An investigation of the roles of distrust, social capital, and health behaviors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 64-73.
    10. Sirven, Nicolas & Debrand, Thierry, 2012. "Social capital and health of older Europeans: Causal pathways and health inequalities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(7), pages 1288-1295.
    11. Fiorillo, Damiano & Sabatini, Fabio, 2011. "Quality and quantity: The role of social interactions in self-reported individual health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(11), pages 1644-1652.
    12. Nicolas Sirven, 2012. "On the Socio-Economic Determinants of Frailty: Findings from Panel and Retrospective Data from SHARE," Working Papers DT52, IRDES institut for research and information in health economics, revised Dec 2012.
    13. Folland, Sherman & Islam, Muhammad Quamrul & Kaarbøe, Oddvar Martin, 2012. "The Social Capital and Health Hypothesis: A Theory and New Empirics Featuring the Norwegian HUNT Data," Working Papers in Economics 04/12, University of Bergen, Department of Economics.

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