Neighborhood differences in social capital: a compositional artifact or a contextual construct?

Health Place. 2003 Mar;9(1):33-44. doi: 10.1016/s1353-8292(02)00028-x.


Assessment of social capital at the neighborhood level is often based on aggregating individual perceptions of trust and reciprocity. Individual perceptions, meanwhile, are influenced through a range of individual attributes. This paper examines the socioeconomic and demographic attributes that systematically correlate with individual perception of social capital and determines the extent to which such attributes account for neighborhood differences in social capital. Using improved multilevel modeling procedures, we ascertain the extent to which differences in social capital perception can be ascribed to true neighborhood-level variations. The analysis is based on the 1994-95 Community Survey of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN). The response measure is based on survey respondent's perceptions of whether people in their neighborhood can be trusted. The results suggest that even after accounting for individual demographic (age, sex, race, marital status) and socioeconomic characteristics (income, education), significant neighborhood differences remain in individual perceptions of trust, substantiating the notion of social capital as a true contextual construct.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chicago
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychology, Social*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Class
  • Social Support*
  • Trust