27 Apr 2007

Social Capital Index - the case for a clause in the Statistics and Registration Service Bill

Social Capital is an unstoppable concept. David Cameron is instinctively in tune with electors in understanding that the highest aspirations of most people are for good relationships with family, friends, and neighbours; and if those aspirations are fulfilled - not merely they, but – the wider society benefits. Such people contribute – in many cases voluntarily and enjoyably – to a wide spectrum of good causes. It is in the interest of the State to foster the development of such social capital, and to do so without constantly trying to engineer outcomes.

Social capital is about networks. It is about connections between family members, friends, neighbours and community groups and institutions.

'Investing in each other and the community: the role of social capital', by Paul Haezewindt [Published in web format: 5 September 2006] from Social Trends, vol 33, pp 19-27. ISSN: 0306-7742 includes:

"Marital status and household type shows a significant relationship with a number of indicators of social capital. Married couples exhibited the highest levels of social capital. They were more likely to be trusting of their neighbours and enjoy high levels of reciprocity with them and were also most likely to have higher levels of social support. Eighty four per cent of married people had three or more people to turn to in a crisis. Divorced or separated people had the lowest level of social support, 72 per cent had three or more people to turn to. This group were also least likely to enjoy living in their local area. Single people were less likely to be civically engaged and be less neighbourly than other groups, but they were more likely to have satisfactory friendship networks. It should be noted, however, that marital status is strongly related to age. For example, 75 per cent of single men and women are aged between 16 and 34, while 84 per cent of married people are aged 35 or above 14. High proportions of lone parent households were likely to have both satisfactory friendship and relatives networks. Non-related households, such as people in flatshares, were least likely to know, trust and speak to neighbours, and low proportions also reported having a satisfactory relatives network...............

Few social capital indicators are found to have statistically significant relationships with factors such as income or employment status..............."

David Cameron is quite right to be upholding the institution of marriage. Given the facts about marital status and social capital, it is only sensible to measure changes in social capital by neighbourhood using the indicators available - such as neighbourhood statistics and indices, local authority best value performance indicators, and NHS Healthcare Commission performance ratings – and to provide an index of social and domestic cohesion by neighbourhood.

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