Toward a neighborhood resource-based theory of social capital for health: can Bourdieu and sociology help?

Soc Sci Med. 2006 Jan;62(1):165-75. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.05.020. Epub 2005 Jul 1.


Within the past several years, a considerable body of research on social capital has emerged in public health. Although offering the potential for new insights into how community factors impact health and well being, this research has received criticism for being undertheorized and methodologically flawed. In an effort to address some of these limitations, this paper applies Pierre Bourdieu's (1986) [Bourdieu, P. (1986). Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241-258). New York: Greenwood] social capital theory to create a conceptual model of neighborhood socioeconomic processes, social capital (resources inhered within social networks), and health. After briefly reviewing the social capital conceptualizations of Bourdieu and Putnam, I attempt to integrate these authors' theories to better understand how social capital might operate within neighborhoods or local areas. Next, I describe a conceptual model that incorporates this theoretical integration of social capital into a framework of neighborhood social processes as health determinants. Discussion focuses on the utility of this Bourdieu-based neighborhood social capital theory and model for examining several under-addressed issues of social capital in the neighborhood effects literature and generating specific, empirically testable hypotheses for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Behavioral Research / methods*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Conformity
  • Social Support*
  • Social Values
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sociology, Medical* / economics
  • Trust