Motives and Social Capital Consequence

By Jordan, Jeffrey L.; Munasib, Abdul B. A. | Journal of Economic Issues, December 2006 | Go to article overview

Motives and Social Capital Consequence


Jordan, Jeffrey L., Munasib, Abdul B. A., Journal of Economic Issues


Allan A. Schmid (2002) discussed distinguishing motives from the outputs of social capital in a recent issue of the Journal of Economic Issues. Most social capital researchers view social capital as social connectedness that, at the individual level, is embodied in interpersonal networks (Dasgupta 2002; Durlauf and Fafchamps 2004). While a popular measure of social capital--the so-called "Putnam's Instrument"--identifies social capital with participation in voluntary organizations, (1) Schmid characterized these associational activities as the outputs or consequences of social capital, not social capital itself. Schmid viewed motives as social capital. For him the crucial question was: What motivates people to be involved in community and associational activities? The suggestion was that the definition of social capital should focus on its sources rather than its consequences (Schmid 2002, 751). Viewing social capital from this perspective focuses on an individual's or group's sense of obligation or sympathy toward another individual or group. In this paper we critically examine this view of social capital.

One of the reasons social capital has generated widespread interest is that researchers have been consistently documenting that social capital has real and significant consequences in all walks of life. The basic argument is that social capital--at the individual as well as the aggregate levels--promotes cooperation, collaboration and coordination, and thereby has a variety of micro and macro level outcomes. Among macro level outcomes are political participation and good governance (Putnam 1995, 2000; DiPasquale and Glaeser 1999), increased judicial efficiency and decreased government corruption (LaPorta et al. 1997), economic performance and regional variations in growth (Knack and Keefer 1997; Serageldin and Grootaert 1999), and rise of high school in the Midwest in the early part of the century (Goldin and Katz 1999). At the micro level, it has been argued that social capital influences cooperative movements (Paldam and Svendsen 2000), income (Narayan and Pritchett 1999), children's school drop out rates (Coleman 1988), labor market outcomes (Putnam 1995; 2000), and the likelihood of positive individual outcomes, especially in the case of disadvantaged youths (Furstenberg and Hughes 1995). It is therefore imperative, that we begin the study of Schmid's view of social capital by studying its consequences.

Schmid's view of social capital is embodied in motives. Schmid classified three motives: sympathy, norm, and reward. He presented a "lost wallet" vignette experiment to study these motives. Schmid, however, did not test the hypothesis that he proposed, namely, the impact that this motive structure has on outcomes such as associational activities. Therefore, to establish this link is a natural follow-up to Schmid. In this paper, we present the results of a survey, The Georgia Social Capital Survey, that conducted the same vignette experiment used by Schmid. (2) Our survey, however, gathered additional information that allowed us to explore links between Schmid's notion of social capital (motives) and its outcomes (various associational activities).

The outcome itself, namely associational activities, is the subject of widespread interest among social capital researchers. Robert Putnam's research is well-known for linking associational activities with a variety of social attributes. In John Helliwell and Robert Putnam (2000), an index of associations, among other measures, is associated with higher growth. Edward Miguel, Paul Gertler, and David I. Levine (2001) show that industrialization is associated with the rising density of organizations. Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn (2003) show that the decline in volunteering is strongly related to higher female labor force participation. Abdul Munasib and Jeffrey Jordan (2005) found that associational activities have positive effects on the environmental awareness of farmers. …

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