Families, Social Capital, and Educational Continuation

Sandefur, Gary, Ann Meier, and Pedro Hernandez
Working paper no. 1999-19


Using four waves of the National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS), we study the influence of social capital on the probability of making three educational transitions: high school graduation, entering any post-secondary education, and entering a four-year post-secondary institution. We investigate several hypotheses suggested by recent theoretical and empirical work on the concept of social capital. Our results show that money can be used to invest in social capital (e.g., residential stability) just as it can be used to invest in human capital. We also find that the forms of social capital (family structure, residential stability, and Catholic school attendance) affect educational attainment in part through the measured quality of social relationships and assistance associated with these different forms of social capital. Our results suggest that recent theoretical and empirical work with the concept of social capital has introduced a set of ideas that may be fruitful for understanding better the ways in which parents and communities can influence the wellbeing of children and adolescents.