Uprooting Children: Mobility, Social Capital, and Mexican American Underachievement

By Robert Ketner Ream | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

Formal Social Networks: The
Mobility/Social Capital Dynamic
and the“Downside”of Social
Capital

Sometimes the teacher will say,'Massiel, what's wrong?
You're not doing your work as normal.' And I'll be like,'I
don't know, my head hurts… ' And they're like,'OK, if you
want just put your head down and then at home you'll finish
it; turn it in to me tomorrow.'

—Massiel, Immigrant from Mexico

Questions about the availability and convertibility of social capital involve more than just its relative opacity or the difficulty of adequately measuring its varied forms. Even when one considers how resources embedded in social networks are distributed and function across various domains, it is next to impossible to define the fundamental essence of social capital, only partly because the domains in which it is located are typically complex and inter-connected. In the previous chapter I examined the mobility/social capital dynamic within families and among adolescent peers. As I shift my focus in this chapter to the public realm of communities and schools, it is important to recall that the interpersonal aspects of the dynamic remain even here at the heart of my investigation. For that reason, I do not concentrate on the obviously collective aspects of social capital, such as civic vitality and“generalized reciprocity”(Putnam, 2000), but rather on public expressions shared on a smaller scale, which is to say, between individuals within communities and schools.

In preceding chapters I have highlighted the disadvantages that are often the results of an absence of social capital. Such a framework remains operative in this chapter, but a somewhat surprising finding leads me to take a closer look at the negative outcomes surfacing in the

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