This study is an empirical test of the three competing models of social capital and collective action. In a multi-level framework, 1) the effect of individual-level social capital on collective action(network dynamic model), 2) the effect of neighborhood-level social capital on collective action(collective efficacy model), and 3) cross-level interaction between social capital measures(synergy model) are tested. The empirical model of the study is thus designed to increase the explanatory power of each of social capital construct.
A national survey data, Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (SCCBS) is used for multi-level studies of social capital. It includes interviews with 29,203 people drawn from 41 different sub-national representative communities with detailed geographic codes. Additional data for neighborhood social composition were obtained from the 2000 U.S. Census (the 2000 Census Summary File 3). Four neighborhood-level social composition variables (neighborhood poverty, income inequality, racial segregation, and residential stability) were drawn to control for neighborhood conditions.
The results generally support the network dynamic and collective efficacy hypotheses, concluding that both individual-level and neighborhood-level social capital measures are significant predictors of the outcome, but there are substantial differences in the magnitude of the effect. Specifically, bridging and linking types of social capital produce stronger effects on residents' collective action than any other variables, and the effect of neighborhood-level social capital is small and partially mediated by individual-level bonding capital. Also, neighborhood-level social cohesion does not explain the extent to which individual-level social capital exerts influence on its outcome.
Implications for practice:
The research findings imply several lessons for social work. The key features of social capital are social relationships accruing to individuals rather than communities. While bonding networks have beneficial effects on the organization of the poor, strategies that extend the boundary of networks and cultivate institutional involvement are more critical to creating opportunities of resource mobilization. Given the findings of this study, the author suggests some ways of promoting community development through investment in social capital.