, Volume 108, Issue 2, pp 215-238
Date: 08 May 2012

Measuring Social Capital in Hamilton, Ontario

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Abstract

Social capital has been studied by academics for more than 20 years and within the past decade there has been an explosion of growth in research linking social capital to health. This paper investigates social capital in Hamilton, Ontario by way of a telephone survey of 1,002 households in three neighbourhood groups representing high, mixed and low socio-economic status (SES). A Social Capital Measurement Tool is proposed as a straightforward way to account for differences in social capital perceptions and actions among residents. Consistent with the literature, the paper found that there was a strong association between social capital perceptions and health, particularly mental health and life stress. Social capital was greater in the high and mixed SES neighbourhoods and much weaker in the low SES neighbourhoods. With respect to social capital actions, both volunteering and voting was associated with positive overall health and mental health. Finally, the paper identified the social capital ‘elite’—respondents with high or above average perceptions and who participated in the two social capital actions—voting and volunteering. Prominent among the social capital elite in Hamilton is the ‘health wealthy’ senior, a positive development for the continued social well-being of the city.