Which is More Relevant for Perceived Happiness, Individual-Level or Area-Level Social Capital? A Multilevel Mediation Analysis
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A growing number of studies have addressed how social capital is closely related to an individual’s perceived happiness. However, most happiness studies have focused on individual-level social capital, which is based on an individual’s subjective assessment of social capital gathered from social surveys. Considering that social capital was originally a collective concept, this study distinguished individual- and area-level aspects of social capital and their relationships in terms of their associations with perceived happiness. To this end, we employed multilevel mediation analysis using cross-sectional microdata from a nationwide Internet survey conducted in Japan (N = 9523). We focused on four types of social capital: trust in neighbors, contacts with neighbors, bonding, and bridging. Based on the estimation results, we first confirmed that social capital at both the individual and area levels had a positive association with perceived happiness when using them separately as an independent variable. Second, we found that a substantial portion of the effect of area-level social capital on perceived happiness was mediated by individual-level social capital. This suggests that an individual’s commitment to area-level social capital is required if a large portion of its potential benefits on perceived happiness are to materialize. Furthermore, we observed that the effects of area-level bonding and bridging on their individual-level measures were affected by several individual-level attributes, including personality traits. Overall, the results underscore the need for further investigation into the association between perceived happiness and social capital at different levels.
KeywordsSocial capital Perceived happiness Mediation analysis Trust Social network Bonding Bridging
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