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Does "community social capital" contribute to population health?

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  • Folland, Sherman

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Folland, Sherman, 2007. "Does "community social capital" contribute to population health?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(11), pages 2342-2354, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:64:y:2007:i:11:p:2342-2354
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Fiorillo, Damiano, 2013. "Friends and health of the workers in Italy," MPRA Paper 44270, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Eiji Yamamura, 2011. "Differences in the effect of social capital on health status between workers and non-workers," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 58(4), pages 385-400, December.
    3. Fiorillo, Damiano & Sabatini, Fabio, 2015. "Structural social capital and health in Italy," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 129-142.
    4. Damiano Fiorillo & Nunzia Nappo, 2017. "Formal volunteering and self-perceived health. Causal evidence from the UK-SILC," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 75(2), pages 112-138, April.
    5. Damiano Fiorillo, 2016. "Workers' health and social relations in Italy," Journal of Economic Studies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 43(5), pages 835-862, October.
    6. Susan L Averett & Laura M Argys & Jennifer C Kohn, 2014. "Friends with Health Benefits: Does Individual-level Social Capital Improve Health?," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 181-201, March.
    7. Xindong Xue & W. Robert Reed, 2015. "The Relationship Between Social Capital And Health In China," Working Papers in Economics 15/05, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
    8. Xue, Xindong & Mo, Erxiao & Reed, W. Robert, 2016. "The relationship between social capital and self-reported health in China," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 10, pages 1-44.
    9. 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.
    10. Lee, Matthew R., 2010. "The protective effects of civic communities against all-cause mortality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(11), pages 1840-1846, June.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. Jēkabsone Inga & Sloka Biruta, 2016. "Social Capital, Well-Being and Municipality: Salaspils Municipality (Latvia) Case," Economics and Culture, De Gruyter Open, vol. 13(1), pages 65-75, June.
    14. 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.
    15. Chen, Jen-Hao & Lauderdale, Diane S. & Waite, Linda J., 2016. "Social participation and older adults' sleep," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 164-173.
    16. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:26:y:2017:i:c:p:174-185 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. 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.
    21. Nakhaie, Reza & Arnold, Robert, 2010. "A four year (1996-2000) analysis of social capital and health status of Canadians: The difference that love makes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(5), pages 1037-1044, September.
    22. Sirven, Nicolas & Debrand, Thierry, 2008. "Social participation and healthy ageing: An international comparison using SHARE data," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(12), pages 2017-2026, December.
    23. 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.
    24. 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.

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