Discussion paper

DP18024 Unpacking Social Capital

We use novel and unique survey data from Italy to shed light on key questions regarding the measurement of social capital and the use of social capital indicators for empirical work. Our data cover a sample of over 600,000 respondents interviewed between 2000 and 2015. We identify four distinct components of social capital — i) social participation, ii) political participation, iii) trust in others, and iv) trust in institutions — and examine how they relate to each other. We then study how each dimension of social capital relates to various socioeconomic factors both at the individual and the aggregate level, and to various proxies of social capital commonly used in the literature. Finally, building on previous work, we investigate to what extent different dimensions of social capital predict differences in key economic, political, and health outcomes. Our findings support the view that social capital is a multifaceted object with multiple dimensions that, while related, are distinct from each other. Future work should take such multidimensionality into account and carefully consider what measure of social capital to use.


Durante, R, N Mastrorocco, L Minale and J Snyder (eds) (2023), “DP18024 Unpacking Social Capital”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 18024. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18024