Sunday, April 09, 2006

Definitions of Social Capital

In order to augment the definition of social capital I provided in class, here are some notes on definitions of social capital that I wrote up several years ago:

Gleaser, Laibson, and Sacerdote (2000)

A person’s social characteristics – including social skills, charisma, and the size of his Rolodex – which enables him to reap market and non-market benefits from interactions with others. A.k.a. the social component of human capital. We assume that individual social capital includes both intrinsic abilities (e.g., being extroverted and charismatic) and the results of social capital investment (e.g., a large Rolodex). We lump these forms together because they are practically indistinguishable. For example, it is hard to know whether an attribute like popularity is an innate ability or something that the individual has worked to develop.

Putnam (2000)

The core idea of social capital theory is that social networks have value. Just like a screwdriver (physical capital) or a college education (human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so too social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups. … Social capital refers to connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. … both an individual and collective aspects … individuals form connections that benefit our own interests [networking, Ronald Burt (sociologist), helping hand, Claude Fischer (sociologist)] … social capital has externalities … so not all benefits accrue to the person making the contact … ‘social capital is akin to … the favor bank’ [Robert Frank, economist] … generalized and specific reciprocity norms … generalized reciprocity is more productive .. trustworthiness lubricates social life … dense networks reduce incentives for opportunism and malfeasance … dense networks facilitate gossip and other ways of cultivating reputation … involves many types interactions …not always used for good … [two types of social ties] bridging (inclusive) and bonding (exclusive) …

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