Three essays on the concept, measurement, and consequences of social capital
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Despite concerted research effort over the last thirty years, social capital remains a variably, and at times, ill-defined concept. A lack of a clear causal theory has made social capital difficult to explore in an empirical setting. In addition, limited understanding of the concept’s operation has restricted its ability to provide valuable insight into policy development. The three papers that compose this thesis examine the concept, measurement, and consequences of social capital. The first provides a theoretical discussion of the conceptual origins of the term, its common criticisms, and suggests an alternative approach to its understanding. The second applies this alternative approach to an empirical model of child enrolment in post-secondary education. Finally, the third critically examines a recent federal policy research initiative related to social capital, identifying key policy development advantages to this thesis’s alternative approach. This thesis argues that antecedents to the modern social capital literature along with more recent criticisms suggest a dual approach to understanding social capital. This dual approach involves two distinct frameworks for understanding the concept – one literal and one figurative. These frameworks guide alternative approaches to empirical social capital work, demonstrated through the analysis of social capital’s impact on child post-secondary enrolment. It further identifies how the two frameworks provide more relevant information on the operation of social capital, facilitating prospective policy development. Overall, the thesis concludes that the literal and figurative approaches represent a more useful way of understanding and applying the social capital concept.