Social capital – critiques

question

Portes, Alejandro. 1998.
answer

logical circularity – as a property of communities and nations rather than individuals, social capital is simultaneously a cause and an effect. It leads to positive outcomes, such as economic development and less crime, and its existence is inferred from the same outcomes. (The problem with a functional definition is that it renders analysis impossible since, as argued by Alejandro Portes, social capital becomes tautologically present whenever a good outcome is observed.) Suggests network social capital: key concept here is that social capital is not an individual characteristic or a personality trait but a resource that resides in the networks and groups to which people belong.
question

Durlauf. 1999.
answer

1 )conceptual ambiguity, 2) it can be bad, not just good – social mechanisms which enforce certain types of community behavior logically lead to correlated behaviors, but do not necessarily lead to socially desirable behaviors. Hence, discussions of social capital that do not specify how socially desirable versus socially undesirable behaviors are selected necessarily beg the question, 3) endogeniety problem – The problem in interpreting these and other such social capital measures as causal is that each is a choice variable, subject of course to constraints, and therefore will
question

Manski. 2000.
answer

1) Vague definition – attracts disparate meanings, 2) the reflection problem – data on outcomes do not reveal whether group behavior actually affects individual behavior, or group behavior is simply the aggregation of individual behaviors. This reflection problem is similar to the problem of interpreting the (almost) simultaneous movements of a person and his reflection in a mirror. Does the mirror image cause the person’s movements or reflect them? (an endogeneity problem)
question

Dika and Singh. 2002.
answer

the delineation of social capital by Coleman (1988) is too vague to develop a testable hypothesis. He defines social capital as the resources inherent in the structure of relationships, which leads to two conceptual problems: 1. Sources (relationships) of social capital are confused with benefits derived from it (leads to circular reasoning). 2. Disentanglement of possession of social capital from activation becomes difficult (unclear which one is associated with desirable outcomes).
question

Bankston and Zhou. 2002.
answer

social capital is not located at any one level of analysis: it emerges across levels of analysis. The confusion over the meaning of this term, then, is a consequence of a metaphorical confusion of a substantive quantity (capital) and a process that takes place through stages (embedded, goal-directed social relations). Locating and defining social capital is further complicated by the variability, contextuality, and conditionality of the process.
question

Durlauf. 2002.
answer

empirical social capital literature seems to be particularly plagued by vague definition of concepts, poorly measured data, absence of appropriate exchangeability conditions, and lack of information necessary to make identification claims plausible
question

Kao. 2004.
answer

points out that negative effects of social capital are possible and we don’t really know if the effects for immigrants are positive or negative because theoretically both are possible. But need clearer definition of social capital to operationalize it.
question

Bankston. 2004.
answer

the ultimate question is whether the framework of social capital and schooling is still useful for thinking about educational outcomes. It is only useful if we keep in mind the problematic nature of the term \”social capital\” itself. Problems of \”social capital\”: 1) It is not an unqualified good – social relations that create productive outcomes may be products of unfortunate, tragic, historic events, 2) It is not always easy to judge whether or not a given set of relations constitute \”capital\” (an investment that may yield a desirable outcome). Criticisms of previous theories about immigrants: Although the ethnicity-as-social-capital approach is valuable, it runs the risk of overlooking the complex and contradictory nature of association between immigrant social relations and the adaptation of immigrant children and children of immigrants.
question

Mouw. 2006.
answer

endogeneity of social capital – empirical estimates of the effect of social capital may be biased because of social homophily, the tendency of similar people to become friends with each other. Social capital needs to confront the problem posed by friendship choice.
question

social capital has vague definition/conceptual ambiguity
answer

the Portes, 1998; Durlauf. 1999; Manski, 2000; Bankston and Zhou, 2002; Kao, 2004
question

endogeneity problem
answer

social capital is simultaneously a cause and an effect. It leads to positive outcomes, such as economic development and less crime, and its existence is inferred from the same outcomes. (The problem with a functional definition is that it renders analysis impossible since, as argued by Alejandro Portes, social capital becomes tautologically present whenever a good outcome is observed.) – Portes, 1998; Durlauf, 1999 and 2002; Mouw, 2006.
question

failure to consider negative causes and effects of social capital
answer

Bankston, 2004: It is not an unqualified good – social relations that create productive outcomes may be products of unfortunate, tragic, historic events; Kao, 2004: points out that negative effects of social capital are possible and we don’t really know if the effects for immigrants are positive or negative because theoretically both are possible; Durlauf, 1999: studies that do not consider potential for negative social capital (associated with poorer academic outcomes) are missing part of the picture; Portes, 19998: so many sociological studies focus on postivie impacts of social capital, but waht about negative ones?

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member