Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics

No 03-5: Measuring social capital – Is there a single underlying explanation?

Christian Bjørnskov () and Gert Tinggaard Svendsen ()
Additional contact information
Christian Bjørnskov: Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, Postal: The Aarhus School of Business, Prismet, Silkeborgvej 2, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Gert Tinggaard Svendsen: Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, Postal: The Aarhus School of Business, Prismet, Silkeborgvej 2, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

Abstract: 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.

Keywords: Social capital; measurement; public policy; corruption; civic participation; generalised trust; principal component analysis

JEL-codes: A12; C71; D23; D60; D70; Z13

42 pages, March 1, 2003

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