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The Role of Social Capital in Early Childhood Development: Evidence from Rural India


  • Wendy Janssens

    (Amsterdam Institute for International Development)

  • Jacques van der Gaag

    (Amsterdam Institute for International Development)

  • Jan-Willem Gunning

    (Amsterdam Institute for International Development)


The literature on social capital clearly shows the significant relationship between social capital and individual outcomes such as educational attainment. However, there is little evidence so far on outcomes of very young children. This report studies the role of social capital in enhancing child outcomes. It investigates two potential sources of social capital. At the individual level, the authors consider social capital as the resources and information residing in the social networks of a child's parents. At the community level, we analyze social capital as the willingness of a community to cooperate and engage in collective action. We study the Mahila Samakhya programme in rural Bihar (India), a women's empowerment programme that emphasizes female education. The findings strongly suggest that the programme is successful in increasing parental awareness on the value of preschool and primary education. In other words, the programme seems to increase the informational resources of parents on education, a social capital effect. Moreover, the results indicate that programme members are significantly more likely than non- participants in their village to participate in school management and school activities, and to contribute to the construction of schools and preschools. That is, the results are highly suggestive of increased collective action as well. A second main finding is that these results do not remain limited to programme participants. We find that non-participating women in programme villages are significantly more aware of the importance of (preschool) education than women in control villages. In addition, non- participating households in programme villages are also significantly more likely to participate in school management and activities, and to contribute to school construction. These results suggest that the programme not only increases social capital among its members, but has potentially strong spillover effects to other community members as well. The programme seems to increase individual and community social capital throughout the wider community. Next, we study the relationship between the Mahila Samakhya programme and preschool and primary school enrolment. Controlling for child, household and community characteristics, we find that children in programme villages are significantly more likely to be enrolled in preschool. The number of preschools, itself strongly correlated with the presence of the programme, is highly predictive of enrolment. We also find a significant and additional relationship between individual participation in the programme and preschool enrolment. Finally, the evidence suggests that children living in programme villages, whose mothers do not participate themselves, are significantly more likely to be enrolled as well. In short, the programme seems to have a direct relationship with preschool enrolment For primary school the findings are approximately similar. The main difference is that the spillovers of the programme are much less visible. Only girls and children from the lowest castes seem to benefit of the presence of the programme regardless of whether their mother participates herself. A similar analysis of immunization coverage again shows the large spillovers of the programme: children in programme villages are significantly more likely to be immunized against tuberculosis, diphtheria and measles, regardless of the active participation in the programme. Surprisingly, this result is stronger than for individual membership. The differences in immunization coverage between the member households and non-member households are insignificant (except for measles). Note that the programme does not have any correlation with the immunization against polio. The impact of the recent mass polio campaigns organized by the government may obscure any programme effects. Finally, the report analyses the relationship of the programme with health indicators. In particular, it studies the partial correlations of programme village and programme membership on the prevalence of diarrhea. However, the logistic estimation does not confirm any significant relationship. In contrast, participants in the programme do have better knowledge on how to treat diarrhea once it occurs than control households. Again, this relationship is also significant for non-participants although its size is smaller. In summary, the evidence is strongly suggestive of the positive relationship between the Mahila Samakhya programme and increased individual and community social capital. In addition, the findings strongly suggest a positive relationship with pre- and primary school enrolment. Not only on members, but on non-members as well. We find similar results for immunization and the treatment of diarrhea, a proxy for health practices.

Suggested Citation

  • Wendy Janssens & Jacques van der Gaag & Jan-Willem Gunning, 2005. "The Role of Social Capital in Early Childhood Development: Evidence from Rural India," Others 0503011, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpot:0503011
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 64

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    Cited by:

    1. Mitchell, Andrew David & Bossert, Thomas J., 2007. "Measuring dimensions of social capital: Evidence from surveys in poor communities in Nicaragua," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 50-63, January.
    2. Saswati Das & Diganta Mukherjee, 2007. "Role of women in schooling and child labour decision: the case of urban boys in India," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 82(3), pages 463-486, July.
    3. Diganta Mukherjee & Saswati Das, 2008. "Role of Parental Education in Schooling and Child Labour Decision: Urban India in the Last Decade," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 89(2), pages 305-322, November.

    More about this item


    social capital early childhood development education immunization health india evaluation;

    JEL classification:

    • P - Economic Systems
    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Z - Other Special Topics

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