Group-Level Differences in the
Availability of Social Capital by
Socioeconomic and Nativity Status
Man is a knot, a web, a mesh into which relationships are
tied. Only those relationships matter.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
While socioeconomic disadvantage, high rates of reactive mobility, and low test scores constitute some of the pressing challenges faced by Mexican origin youth, research also suggests that close-knit personal social networks embodied, for example, in Mexican familism (Valenzuela, 1990; Valenzuela & Dornbusch, 1994), or students' more public relations with school personnel (Stanton-Salazar, 2001) can act to mitigate the burdens of transience (Hagan et al., 1996) as well as other challenges associated with minority status in the United States (Vélez-Ibanez & Greenberg, 1992; Zhou & Bankston, 1998). The premise here—specifically that mitigative stocks of certain forms of social capital vary by race/ethnicity—has largely escaped the attention of social scientists (Brehm & Rahn, 1997; Fuller & Hannum, 2002). This lacunae in the research literature is partly the consequence of complex measurement issues, since social capital, unlike material capital (i.e., income and assets), is a communal postulate resisting simple quantification. Due to its opacity, inequitable distribution of social capital may perpetuate inequality in ways that merit closer scrutiny (Loury, 1977; Granovetter, 1985; Portes, 1998).
As any accountant knows, some resources are more readily quantifiable than others. Even ordinary monetary capital can sometimes be difficult to measure. I'm no accountant, however, so I place a call to mine, asking him whether there's a continuum of difficulty in that profession for assessing various kinds of economic resources and related transactions. After initial greetings, the conversation (abridged version) goes something like this: