Social Capital: Bridging the Theory and Empirical Divide

Brenda Gannon, Jennifer Roberts


We explore the measurement of social capital in an attempt to bring the empirical work closer to the theoretical literature. Specifically we use the Survey of Health Aging and Retirement in Europe for 2004 and 2006 to construct a composite index of social capital, using principal component analysis. We explore the extent to which the underlying latent factors coincide with the theoretical components of social capital. Our results suggest that the proxy variables load on to four theoretical components. Both men and women have higher social capital in Nordic welfare regimes compared to those in Central or Southern Europe.