SOCIOLOGY 2235 – Assignment #2 Answer Sheet
Download this answer sheet and type your answers into each section.
Main argument (2 marks)
Theory (6 marks)
a) What is the authors’ definition of social capital?
b) Define and distinguish the difference between bonding, bridging and linking social
c) According to the authors, why does social capital matter in the study of poverty?
Research (3 marks)
b) Sample size:
c) Sample characteristics:
Results and discussion (6 marks)
a) What are the findings presented by the authors related to race/ethnicity,
employment, and social capital?
b) What are the differences discussed between the impact of bonding and bridging
c) What are the limitations of the study as discussed by the authors?
ANTIPOVERTY EFFORTS FOR VULNERABLE FAMILIES
Race and Ethnicity as Moderators of Neighborhood
Bonding Social Capital: Effects on Employment Outcomes
for Families Living in Low-Income Neighborhoods
Daniel Brisson, Susan Roll, & Jean East
The concept of social capital is being applied to community-based antipoverty programs across the country. Despite its
increased presence in program theory, research on the process and effects of social capital are lacking. This study tests the
direct and moderating relationships between race and ethnicity, informal neighborhood bonding social capital, and poverty on employment for households in low-income urban neighborhoods. Findings reveal a direct and inverse relationship
between informal neighborhood bonding social capital and employment, suggesting that social capital is not a cure-all
for families living in low-income neighborhoods. Implications for social workers include carefully considering the types
of social capital used in program theory and practice, and whether the specific types of social capital are appropriate for
intended program outcomes.
espite decades of program and policy work, urban communities
across the country continue to struggle with issues related to
poverty. Time limits for families receiving welfare (Neubeck,
2006; Seccombe, 2007), a near stagnant minimum wage—which has
helped to create a class of working poor (Edin & Lein, 1997; Ehrenreich,
2001)—and public benefits that don’t match the ever-rising cost of living (Handler & Hasenfeld, 2007) all contribute to the issue of urban
poverty. While the latest American Community Survey (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2006) showed a slight drop in poverty rates from 2005, 13
million children in the United States remain in poverty today. Eighty
percent of these children live in metropolitan areas, where poverty
rates average 17.5% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). As urban populations
continue to grow, there is an increasing need to identify and implement
ways to alleviate the multidimensional problems related to poverty in
One theory that has been applied to social work community practice
and addresses urban poverty is social capital—defined as trusting
social networks and shared values and norms in a community (Coleman, 1988; Lin, 2001; Putnam, 2000). Social work and social service
organizations are applying the concept of social capital in their programming strategies as a way to support families to develop tangible
and intangible assets (Putnam & Feldstein, 2003). The concept of social
capital is particularly appealing to social workers because of its foundational premise of capital formation through relationship building. A
deeper understanding of social capital, and learning how to create and
sustain it, holds promise for families and individuals in low-income
Considering the debilitating consequences of poverty and the potential of social capital as a guiding concept for individual, family, and
community interventions, this article tests the moderating characterisFamilies in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services
tics of race, ethnicity, and poverty on informal neighborhood bonding
social capital for family employment outcomes. We begin with a review
of the literature discussing the implications of social capital, race and
ethnicity, relative poverty, and employment in low-income neighborhoods. The specific methods and analysis of this study are then presented, followed by a discussion of the results. We end with suggestions
for future research and implications for social service programs.
Social Capital and Low-Income Communities
The individual and social consequences of poverty are well documented.
A plethora of studies can be found linking poverty to high crime, unemployment, poor educational and health outcomes, homelessness, substance abuse, and juvenile delinquency (Brooks-Gunn, Duncan, & Aber,
1997; Jencks & Mayer, 1990; Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000; Wilson,
1987). Social workers—whose ecological and person-in-environment
framework integrates individual, family, neighborhood, community,
and institutional systems—are well positioned to inform social service
practice and research addressing issues of poverty. At the same time,
with growing supporting evidence, social capital has become a viable
construct to guide social work in low-income communities.
The concept of social capital has gained recent popularity across
disciplines, but the concept has been in the literature for over a century.
From a historical perspective, social capital was studied primarily by
economists and economic sociologists who were heavily influenced by
the work of Marx and Engels, Simmel, Durkheim, Weber, and Parsons
(Portes & Sensenbrenner, 1993). Recently, social capital has become
popular among varied disciplines, and even the general public, with
Robert Putnam’s best-selling book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and
Revival of American Community (2000). In his book, Putnam portrays
©2009 Alliance for Children and Families
Brisson, Roll, & East | Race and Ethnicity as Moderators of Neighborhood Bonding Social Capital: Effects on Employment Outcomes for Families in Low-Income Neighborhoods
social capital as a social and economic cure-all, and he provides beginning evidence of social capital’s relationship to improved health and
education, lower levels of crime, and economic advantage.
One way that social scientists have begun to understand social capital
is by breaking it down into types. Three of the most widely accepted
types of social capital include bonding, bridging, and linking (Gittell
& Vidal, 1998). Bonding social capital occurs among people in the
most similar of situations, such as immediate family, close friends, and
neighbors. Bridging social capital occurs among people in more distal
relationships, and linking occurs between people who are the most
dissimilar. In the context of the present study in urban neighborhoods,
social capital is the value embedded in the informal trusting social networks between neighbors (Lin, 2001), and, as such, this study focuses
on informal bonding relationships that occur in the context of urban
neighborhoods. Informal neighborhood bonding social capital can aid
families in many ways. Examples include sharing child-care responsibilities among neighbors; sharing transportation, including borrowing
vehicles; job networking through neighborhood contacts; political
power through shared values; and emotional and psychological support
(Coleman, 1988; Lin; Woolcock & Narayan, 2000).
While community-based social service programs currently apply
the social capital construct to antipoverty programs, social scientists
continue to build empirical evidence on the specific processes by which
we can expect social capital to benefit families in low-income urban
neighborhoods. If one assumes that economic and cultural differences
matter for the way individuals develop and maintain trusting relationships (Chaskin, 2001), then it is important to test the intersection of
social capital with characteristics of social class, race, and ethnicity.
More specifically, do the effects of social capital differ for families of
different racial and ethnic groups, and do the effects of social capital
differ for families of varying incomes?
In addition, an issue when studying social capital is measurement of
the concept. While well-accepted measures have not been identified for
all social capital types, there is general acceptance of measures of an
individual’s perceptions of social cohesion and trust among neighbors,
which is part of informal neighborhood bonding social capital (Browning, Leventhal, & Brooks-Gunn, 2005; Cohen, Finch, Bower, & Sastry,
2006; Dorsey & Forehand, 2003; Drukker, Kaplan, Feron, & Van Os,
2003; Lochner, Kawachi, Brennan, & Buka, 2003; Rankin & Quane,
2002; Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997). The combination of social
cohesion and trust among neighbors is a strong conceptual match for
our definition of informal neighborhood bonding social capital.
why racial and ethnic clustering exists in low-income neighborhoods,
we do want to know if individuals and families of different racial and
ethnic backgrounds access and experience social capital differently as
related to job networking and employment outcomes.
In addition to racial and ethnic clustering, economic clustering
in low-income neighborhoods as an aggregate has also been firmly
established (Coulton & Pandey, 1992; Massey, 1990; Shaw & McKay,
1969). Yet within low-income neighborhoods, there are families with
little to no income, working poor families, and middle-class families
(Ehrenreich, 2001; Schiller, 2001). Families with different levels of relative wealth will seemingly need different strategies for advancing their
economic condition (Edin & Lein, 1997; Ehrenreich). For the purpose
of this investigation, we have separated families living above and below
the poverty level to begin to tease out how differences in relative wealth
may moderate the effect of social capital on employment.
There is also theoretical support suggesting that relationships similar to informal neighborhood bonding may be detrimental to securing
employment. Park and Burgess (1924) presented an ecological perspective where low-income inner-city neighborhoods were considered places
for transition and families did not settle into these neighborhoods, but
instead transitioned through them. From this perspective, families from
a high-transition neighborhood will not receive a return on their investment due to a lack of reciprocity in neighborhood social relationships.
Building on Park and Burgess’s work, social disorganization theorists
suggest that the rules and social norms of some low-income neighborhoods can run antithetical to those rules and social norms followed by
governing bodies and institutions (Shaw & McKay, 1969). The conflict
between local social norms and institutional social norms can present a barrier to accessing institutionalized benefits, such as full-time
employment. From a limited resources view, the inverse relationship
between bonding and employment can be explained by understanding
that families in neighborhood bonding relationships spend their limited
resources on emergencies and crises. If the resources needed to address
crises are greater than the resources available through bonding social
capital, then families may sacrifice other advantages, such as full-time
employment, to support networked families in crisis. Finally, Granovetter (1973) proposed the popular strength-of-weak-ties theory, which
suggests that the reciprocity associated with strong ties may prove
overly burdensome for some low-income families, thereby limiting
opportunities for economic advancement, and weak ties may provide
the connections necessary to access key resources while not providing
the economic burden of reciprocity.
Securing Employment and the Moderating
Effects of Race, Ethnicity, and Relative Poverty
There are a number of reasons to test the moderating effect of race and
ethnicity on the relationship between social capital and employment in
urban neighborhoods. For one, it is well established that clustering by
race and ethnicity occurs in neighborhoods. Jargowsky (1997) identified that the majority of African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites
live where their own group is dominant. We also know that some
race and ethnic minority groups are overrepresented in low-income
neighborhoods (Massey, 1990; Wilson, 1987). Several hypotheses have
been offered to explain this ethnic clustering. It could be racial and
ethnic cultural and networking behavior (Banks, 2003; Borjas, 2006;
Jarkowsky, 1997); it could be housing and economic market conditions
(Wilson); it could be institutionalized racism and segregation (Quillian
& Redd, 2006). While, we are not testing a specific hypothesis to explain
A review of the literature clearly delineates the complex role that informal neighborhood bonding social capital plays in helping families from
low-income neighborhoods secure employment. In fact, whether informal neighborhood bonding social capital should improve or hinder family employment outcomes is unclear from our literature review. If we are
to attempt to utilize social capital as a centerpiece for community-based
antipoverty programs, we must clearly understand the role of informal
bonding social capital for families as well as its interaction with factors
such as poverty, race, and ethnicity in urban neighborhoods. Further,
if social service programs hope to make changes for families, we need
scientific evidence to guide programmatic decisions regarding social
capital’s utility. To this end, our study tests the direct effects of informal
neighborhood bonding social capital, race and ethnicity, and poverty
on employment. We also test the moderating effects of race and ethnic369
FAMILIES IN SOCIETY | Volume 90, No. 4
status in consideration of the possible confounding relationship between race and ethnicity and immigrant status in the
models. An operational description of each of the primary
concepts in the models follows.
Race and ethnicity. In the survey, respondents were
asked to indicate their race or ethnicity and were told they
could choose more than one race or ethnicity for themselves.
bonding social capital
The authors collapsed survey responses into five categories
of race or ethnicity for the analysis. The five categories (with
Race and ethnicity
the percentage of respondents in each category in parentheses) are Asian (7.2%), Black (32.0%), Hispanic (28.2%),
White (25.1%), and a final category of all other races, which
includes less than 6% of the sample. Racial and ethnic
ity on neighborhood bonding social capital for employment and the
are disproportionately represented in low-income
moderating effect of poverty on neighborhood bonding social capital
neighborhoods, and research suggests that neighborhoods cluster as
for employment. Figure 1 provides an illustration of the framework we
racially and ethnically homogenous communities (Massey, 1990; Neltest in our models.
son, 2005). Further, European Americans (or Whites, in this analysis)
have been the historical majority group and receive some advantage in
having this majority status. For these reasons, those households identified as White will serve as a comparison group in the analysis.
To test our research questions, the study uses a national dataset with a
Neighborhood bonding social capital. One of the primary indepenstratified sample of families living in low-income neighborhoods. The
dent variables in the study is an individual’s informal neighborhood
dataset was constructed from baseline surveys conducted in 2002 and
bonding social capital. Informal neighborhood bonding social capital
2003 of over 7,000 households of targeted low-income neighborhoods in
is measured using four indicators of neighborhood social cohesion
cities participating in The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Conand one indicator of neighborhood trust. The five indicators measurnections initiative. Making Connections is a comprehensive community
ing neighborhood bonding social capital were originally tested in the
change initiative in designated low-income neighborhoods in 10 U.S.
Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN;
cities. The cities participating in the initiative are Denver, Des Moines,
Sampson et al., 1997). Scale measurement procedures revealed that
Hartford, Indianapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Oakland, Providence,
the most valid and reliable measure is a weighted composite score
San Antonio, and Seattle. The dataset represents a cross-section of
of the five indicators.1 The coefficient alpha for the neighborhood
households in low-income neighborhoods. Due to the cross-sectional
bonding social capital scale is .71 with a mean score of 3.44 (SD = .80;
nature of the data, cause-and-effect relationships between tested vari1.05 = low to 5.27 = high).
ables are limited.
Poverty. Poverty is measured using an estimate of the 2002 poverty
line based on available data. In the survey, respondents were asked to
report household income in $5,000 increments up to a maximum of
A sampling frame of households in designated Making Connections
$30,000 (all households with income above $30,000 are aggregated into
neighborhoods was constructed for each city participating in the initiaone group). Twenty-five percent of households reported annual income
tive. A probability sample of households was then selected from each of
above $30,000. Respondents were also asked to report the number of
the designated neighborhoods. Once a household was selected for the
family members in the household. From these two variables, an estisurvey, a household roster was constructed. If no children were presmate of households living above and below the poverty line was coment in the household, one adult respondent was selected at random to
piled.2 The data show that 41% of households in the survey are living
respond for the household. If children were present in the household,
below the poverty line.
then the adult who knew the child best responded for the household.
Immigrant status. Households where the survey respondent
A total of 7,437 households from low-income neighborhoods in the
was born in another country are considered immigrants in the
10 cities are included in the analyses. Over half of the households in the
analyses. Of the 7,437 households in the analyses, 26% are immisample had income below $20,000 and 75% had income below $30,000.
grant households. Although it is clear that recent immigrants to
Multiple imputation using NORM® software was used to correct for
the United States have contributed significantly to the economy
cases with missing data. Multiple imputation is considered the highest
(Fix and Passel, 1994; Rodriguez, 1999), it is also true that many
standard for correcting for missing data, and it allows for statistical
recent immigrants live in urban neighborhoods where they face ecoinference to be made back to the original sample (McKnight, McKnight,
nomic hardship. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2007), one in
Sidani, & Figueredo, 2007). Following the recommendations of Schaeffer (2000), nine complete datasets were constructed from the original
The five indicators, with weights in brackets, are: (a) I live in a close-knit neighdataset with missing values. Model estimates were then computed for
[1.00], (b) People in my neighborhood are willing to help their neighbors
each of the nine datasets. Final results are the average values of esti[2.01], (c) People in my neighborhood generally don’t get along with each other
mates from the nine imputed datasets.
FIGURE 1. Direct and moderating effects of informal neighborhood bonding social capital,
race and ethnicity, and poverty on employment.
This inquiry was interested in the direct and moderating relationship
of race an ...
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