Social capital and health: A multidimensional approach

Kristin McCarthy
2017
In the last few decades as American society and urban life have changed dramatically, public health and urban sociological research have increasingly focused on the effect of residential location on individual well-being. In recent years, social capital has been viewed as an important pathway in understanding the associations between where one lives and health and social outcomes. Although there is not one, single definition of social capital, researchers within public health have often relied
more » ... have often relied on three schools of thought labeled after Pierre Bourdieu, James Coleman, and Robert Putnam to define social capital and hypothesize its relationship with health and behaviors. However, for many years, public health researchers have often relied on Putnam's theory (1993, 1995, 2000) and a communitarian approach to defining social capital and its possible relationship to health and well-being. Many researchers and sociologists have criticized this over-reliance and overuse of Putnam's social capital constructs as they have been criticized for lacking depth and their inability to explain the causal pathways in which social capital and health operate. Additionally, the measures used to operationalize the most widely used Putnam social capital constructs often focus only on a few dimensions of his theory; generalized trust, shared norms and values, reciprocity, and civic engagement. These measures have been criticized for simultaneously being overly theoretically broad and limited in its measurement. In this research, I use a more recent paradigm of social capital theory that conceptualizes social capital as having several dimensions thereby enabling one to examine the possibility that different forms of social capital and cohesion have different impacts (both negative and positive) on health behaviors and well-being. This paper compares a Putnam-based social capital model as measured by the most commonly used variables based on his work against a broader, multi-dimensional model that measures social capital across sever [...]
doi:10.7916/d8jw8q0p fatcat:qx5dlrwtaffuzk2hogturxqtmi