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The role of social capital in reducing non-specific psychological distress: The importance of controlling for omitted variable bias

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  • Scheffler, Richard M.
  • Brown, Timothy T.
  • Rice, Jennifer K.

Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between area-level social capital and non-specific psychological distress. It demonstrates that not controlling for non-time-varying omitted variables can seriously bias research findings. We use data from three cross-sections of the US National Health Interview Survey (1999, 2000, and 2001): 37,172 observations nested within 58 Metropolitan Statistical Areas. We also add data from the Area Resource File and County Business Patterns. We use a validated measure of social capital, the Petris Social Capital Index (PSCI), which measures structural social capital. We estimate a two-level multilevel linear model with a random intercept. Non-specific psychological distress is measured using a valid and reliable indicator, the K6. Individual-level variables include sex, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, family income, smoking status, exercise status, and number of visits to a health professional. Area-level covariates include the PSCI, the unemployment rate, psychiatrists per 1000 population, non-psychiatric physicians per 1000 population, and area-level indicators to account for non-time-varying area-level omitted variable bias. Time dummies are also included. We find that lagged area-level social capital is negatively related to non-specific psychological distress among individuals whose family income is less than the median. These associations are much larger when we control for non-time-varying area-level omitted variables.

Suggested Citation

  • Scheffler, Richard M. & Brown, Timothy T. & Rice, Jennifer K., 2007. "The role of social capital in reducing non-specific psychological distress: The importance of controlling for omitted variable bias," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 842-854, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:65:y:2007:i:4:p:842-854
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Fiorillo, Damiano & Sabatini, Fabio, 2015. "Structural social capital and health in Italy," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 129-142.
    2. Setti Rais & Ali Dourgnon & Lise Rochaix, 2018. "A shortcut to Rome: Exploring the Social Determinants of patients' Time to Diagnosis," PSE Working Papers halshs-01703170, HAL.
    3. Chul-Joo Lee & Daniel Kim, 2013. "A Comparative Analysis of the Validity of US State- and County-Level Social Capital Measures and Their Associations with Population Health," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 111(1), pages 307-326, March.
    4. Shoff, Carla & Yang, Tse-Chuan, 2013. "Understanding maternal smoking during pregnancy: Does residential context matter?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 50-60.
    5. Thierry Debrand & Nicolas Sirven, 2008. "Promoting Social Participation for Healthy Ageing - A Counterfactual Analysis from the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE)," Working Papers DT7, IRDES institut for research and information in health economics, revised Jan 2008.
    6. Yoon, Jangho & Brown, Timothy T., 2011. "Does the promotion of community social capital reduce obesity risk?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 296-305, May.
    7. 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.
    8. Jonathan E Leightner & Tomoo Inoue, 2014. "Political Instability and the Effectiveness of Economic Policies: The Case of Thailand from 1993-2013," Economy, Asian Online Journal Publishing Group, vol. 1(1), pages 20-31.
    9. 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.
    10. Prins, R.G. & Beenackers, M.A. & Boog, M.C. & Van Lenthe, F.J. & Brug, J. & Oenema, A., 2014. "Neighbourhood social capital as a moderator between individual cognitions and sports behaviour among Dutch adolescents," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 9-15.
    11. Scheffler, Richard M. & Brown, Timothy T. & Syme, Leonard & Kawachi, Ichiro & Tolstykh, Irina & Iribarren, Carlos, 2008. "Community-level social capital and recurrence of acute coronary syndrome," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(7), pages 1603-1613, April.
    12. Jonathan E. Leightner, 2013. "The Changing Effectiveness of Monetary Policy," Economies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 1(3), pages 1-16, November.

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    USA Social capital Mental health;

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