Measuring social capital: Orthodoxies and continuing controversies | Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung

Jan W. van Deth
Measuring social capital: Orthodoxies and continuing controversies

International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 2003: 6, Heft 1, S. 79-92
ISSN: 1364-5579

Studying social capital is widely spread and the concept entered almost each and every field of the social sciences in the last decade. An overview of the available research strategies and empirical approaches of social capital is presented here. Surprisingly, the conceptual heterogenuity is much less reflected in operational and empirical heterogenuity than expected. The field is characterized by several orthodoxies, mainly related to the dominant position of polling methods and the use of straightforward survey questions. Available alternative approaches are limited to the use of official statistics as inverse indicators and to some experiments. The major pitfalls in empirical research on social capital are discussed. Urgently needed are multi-method and multi-level strategies in order to strengthen the role of empirical evidence in the debates on social capital, civil society, and citizenship.