Measuring Social Capital
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Publication date: 2012-02-29
GNPJE 2012;253(1-2):1–24
The article aims to critically review the most common indicators of social capital, combined with an attempt to provide general recommendations on how social capital should be measured. The article is based on an analysis of available research reports, including: (i) papers focusing on the definition and conceptualization of social capital; (ii) methodological studies on problems related to the operationalization of social capital; and (iii) examples of empirical studies using various kinds of measures of social capital. In the first part of the article, the author discusses the fundamental difficulties of measuring social capital. The second part covers an overview of the key methods for measuring social capital used in empirical research, and their strengths and weaknesses. According to the author, there is a lack of standardization in the use of social capital indicators, which results not only from differences in conceptualization, but also from the nature of the studied processes, which are highly dependent on the context. The main recommendation is to exercise caution when choosing social capital indicators, which should be consistent with the definition of social capital adopted under specific research conditions, according to Łopaciuk-Gonczaryk. In many cases, this means the need to move away from devising indicators based on available secondary data, the author says, in favor of conducting new empirical research, for example research inspired by the social network analysis methods discussed in the article. In order to create increasingly relevant and reliable indicators of social capital, quantitative methods could be supplemented with elements of qualitative research, for example by improving questions used in questionnaires, Łopaciuk-Gonczaryk says. What is more, social capital is a multidimensional concept and as such it cannot be summarized with a single index, the author adds. Instead, it is worth attempting to identify the various dimensions of social capital and study the relationships taking place between these dimensions.