Toward a Neighborhood Resource-Based Theory of Social Capital for Health

Can Bourdieu and Sociology Help?

A collection of recent public health research has turned to the relationship of social capital and its impact on health and well being. Criticism of this work focuses on lack of theoretical support and use of flawed methodology. This paper addresses some of these criticisms by applying Pierre Bourdieu's (1986) social capital theory to create a conceptual model of neighborhood socioeconomic processes, social capital and health. The article presents a review of social capital concepts as described by Bourdieu and Putnam, and then integrates these theories in a conceptual model to demonstrate how social capital might operate within neighborhoods or local areas.

Key Findings:

  • The conceptual model incorporates aspects such as structural antecedent factors to social capital and social cohesion, informal social control, community organization participation and numerous other individual level factors such as length of residency, health behaviors and risk factors and education.
  • The model contributes new theoretical concepts for future testing including neighborhood social capital as a multi-level construct, neighborhood social capital as different forms, neighborhood social capital as a mediator of socioeconomic status– health relationship, and neighborhood social capital versus social cohesion.