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Measuring social capital – Is there a single underlying explanation?

Social capital has not been measured in any general way yet as previous surveys have used their own ad hoc methodologies. This fact is due to the heterogeneity of the very definition of social capital. Therefore, consensus concerning measurement has not yet been reached. Based on ten existing empirical approaches at the macro, meso and micro level, we inductively identify the four main variables observed this far. By applying principal components analysis, we show that four indicators measuring elements of social capital at the micro, meso and macro levels all powerfully load onto one single underlying component. However, the results from the analyses also show that Putnam’s Instrument is the variable that has the weakest association with the unitary measure of social capital and may constitute a second component.

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Paper provided by University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 03-5.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:aareco:2003_005
Contact details of provider: Postal: The Aarhus School of Business, Prismet, Silkeborgvej 2, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
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  1. John Helliwell, 2001. "Social Capital, the Economy and Well-being," The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress, in: Andrew Sharpe, Executive Director & France St-Hilaire, Vice-President , Research & Keith Banting, Di (ed.), The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress 2001: The Longest Decade: Canada in the 1990s, volume 1 Centre for the Study of Living Standards;The Institutute for Research on Public Policy.
  2. Paldam, M. & Svendsen, G.T., 2000. "Missing Social Capital and the Transition in Eastern Europe," Papers 00-5, Aarhus School of Business - Department of Economics.
  3. Paldam, Martin & Svendsen, Gert Tinggaard, 2000. "An essay on social capital: looking for the fire behind the smoke," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 339-366, June.
  4. Narayan, Deepa & Pritchett, Lant, 1997. "Cents and sociability : household income and social capital in rural Tanzania," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1796, The World Bank.
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  6. Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-88, November.
  7. Paldam, Martin, 2000. " Social Capital: One or Many? Definition and Measurement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(5), pages 629-53, December.
  8. Svendsen, G.T., 1998. "Social Capital, Economic Growth and Transition Economies," Papers 98-2, Aarhus School of Business - Department of Economics.
  9. Mauro, Paolo, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712, August.
  10. Knack, Stephen, 2000. "Social capital and the quality of Government : evidence from the U.S. States," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2504, The World Bank.
  11. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1999. "Governance matters," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2196, The World Bank.
  12. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
  13. Paul F. Whiteley, 2000. "Economic Growth and Social Capital," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 48(3), pages 443-466, 06.
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