Social capital is associated with decreased risk of hunger

Soc Sci Med. 2004 Jun;58(12):2645-54. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2003.09.026.


This article explores whether social capital-a measure of trust, reciprocity and social networks-is positively associated with household food security, independent of household-level socioeconomic factors. Interviews were conducted in 330 low-income households from Hartford, Connecticut. Social capital was measured using a 7-item Likert scale and was analyzed using household- and community-level scores. Household food security and hunger were measured using the US Household Food Security Module. chi2 tests were used to examine associations between social capital, food security and household demographic characteristics. Logistic regression was used to examine whether household- and community-level social capital decreases the odds of household hunger, and to estimate which household characteristics increase the likelihood of having social capital. Consistent with our hypotheses, social capital, at both the household and community levels, is significantly associated with household food security in these data. Community-level social capital is significantly associated with decreased odds of experiencing hunger (adjusted odds ratio (AOR)=0.47 [95% CI 0.28, 0.81], P<0.01), while controlling for household socioeconomic status. Results show that households with an elderly member are over two and a half times as likely to have high social capital (AOR=2.68 [1.22, 5.87], P<0.01) than are non-elderly households, after controlling for socioeconomic status. Having a household member who participates in a social or civic organization is also significantly associated with having higher levels of social capital. Social capital, particularly in terms of reciprocity among neighbors, contributes to household food security. Households may have similarly limited financial or food resources, but households with higher levels of social capital are less likely to experience hunger.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Confidence Intervals
  • Connecticut
  • Data Collection
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Food Supply / economics*
  • Humans
  • Hunger*
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Poverty
  • Probability
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Identification
  • Socioeconomic Factors