Social Capital and School Achievement among Adolescents

Meier, Ann
Working paper no. 1999-18


Using two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), I study the influence of social capital on school achievement and the decision to stay in or drop out of school. James Coleman’s original concept of social capital is coupled with recent research that refines the way social capital is defined and operationalized. This results in a concept of social capital with several discrete dimensions: forms, quality, and assistance. Forms are defined as the relationships that form social capital. Assistance is what is generated by way of these relationships, and quality is a measure of their character.

Recent theoretical and empirical work on the concept of social capital suggests a number of hypotheses that I investigate in this paper. Past research on the concept of human capital indicates that money (financial capital) is often used to invest in education (human capital). My results indicate that money can also be used to invest in some forms of social capital (residential stability). My findings support recent research that suggests that the quality of social relationships and the assistance provided through them may explain part of the effects of those relationships on academic achievement among adolescents. In general, this paper finds the recent theoretical and empirical work on social capital a useful contribution to the way we view the influence of relationships and the assistance they provide on the educational achievement of adolescents.