, Volume 80, Issue 3, pp 461-492
Date: 28 Aug 2006

Measuring Social Cohesion: An Experiment using the Canadian National Survey of Giving, Volunteering, and Participating

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Abstract

Social cohesion is a concept difficult to define and to measure. As there can be many definitions, so there can be many measurements. The main problem, either in defining or measuring the concept, is its multilevel and multidimensional nature. At one extreme, country is the most commonly used level to view social cohesion but measurement at this level is of little use for any interventions. At the other extreme, community is the most useful level but it is a social construct for which data are difficult to get, given the administrative boundaries used in social surveys. As an initial attempt to measure social cohesion at a subcountry level, this study focuses on census metropolitan areas for which data on several dimensions of social cohesion are available. We use the information gathered by the National Survey on Giving, Volunteering and Participating (NSGVP) on three dimensions of social cohesion: political (voting and volunteering), economic (occupation, income, labour force participation) and social (social interactions, informal volunteering). Using statistical techniques including factor analysis and standardization, we create an overall index of social cohesion for each CMA. We point out use of this measure for further analysis of social dynamics.