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The Buffering Effects of Social Capital on Inequalities in Subjective Well-Being Among Older People

Abstract

Empirical evidence regarding the buffering effects of community social capital on health inequality is limited. This study aims to examine the moderating effects of a community’s social capital on socioeconomic inequalities in subjective well-being (life satisfaction) among older people. Using cross-sectional data from Seoul, South Korea, 5000 older people (65 years old or older) were analyzed. Cognitive social capital was operationalized as the average level of generalized and public trust, and structural social capital was measured by the average group membership per capita. As social capital has been found to function in beneficial ways by promoting social interactions, norms and resources, it was hypothesized that it would reduce the socioeconomic gradients of life satisfaction. Multilevel models were applied to examine the contextual and cross-level interaction effects. The results showed that socioeconomic inequalities in life satisfaction among older people do exist. Some moderating effects of community social capital were also found. Generalized trust at the community level decreased the association between education and life satisfaction (B = − .472, p < .001). In addition, the average level of public trust in the community also moderated the association between education and life satisfaction (B = − .653, p < .05). The results of this study expand previous findings on the beneficial effects of social capital: Community social capital not only improves the health of individuals but also reduces the level of inequalities in health.

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Fig. 1

Adapted from Aguinis and Edwards (2014)

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Correspondence to Bomi Choi.

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Choi, B., Jun, H.J. The Buffering Effects of Social Capital on Inequalities in Subjective Well-Being Among Older People. Soc Indic Res (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-020-02352-5

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Keywords

  • Social capital
  • Subjective well-being
  • Older people
  • Cross-level interaction
  • Multilevel analysis
  • South Korea