Skip to main content

Opening the Black Box of Social Capital Formation


This paper introduces a rational choice model for multiple kinds of participation to empirically investigate several theoretical determinants of social capital (SC) formation. The framework is rich enough to investigate the importance of individual variables, social/peer effects, endogenous trust, political-institutional, and inequality factors as sources of participation. We show that the aforementioned contextual factors explain SC formation for Chile, but their relative importance varies for each kind of participation. Our second application compares individual-level determinants of SC formation among the largest democracies in the Americas. Gender, age, education, and race show heterogeneous effects across countries. Overall, negative interpersonal trust shocks generate participation increments, and possibly motivate engagement in trustworthy networks. Idiosyncratic factors behind participation and trust are positively correlated, suggesting a common SC stem that manifests in multiple ways. Hence, our empirical approach to SC formation uncovers factors hidden by assumptions in some previous literature.

Corresponding author
Patricio Valdivieso is Associate Professor at the Centro de Estudios de la Realidad Local y Regional, Universidad de los Lagos, and is associated with ORPAS, Universidad Bernardo O'Higgins. República 590, Santiago, Chile (
Benjamín Villena-Roldán is Assistant Professor at the Department of Industrial Engineering, Center for Applied Economics, Universidad de Chile, República 701, Santiago, Chile (
Hide All
Alesina A., and La Ferrara E.. 2000. “Participation in Heterogeneous Communities.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 115 (3): 847904.
Alesina A., and La Ferrara E.. 2002. “Who Trusts Others?Journal of Public Economics 85 (2): 207–34.
Angrist J. D., Graddy K., and Imbens G. W.. 2000. “The Interpretation of Instrumental Variables Estimators in Simultaneous Equations Models with an Application to the Demand for Fish.” The Review of Economic Studies 67 (3): 499527.
Angrist J. D., and Pischke J.-S.. 2009. Mostly Harmless Econometrics—An Empiricist Companion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Bjørnskov C. 2006. “The Multiple Facets of Social Capital.” European Journal of Political Economy 22: 2240.
Borgonovi F. 2012. “The Relationship Between Education and Levels of Trust and Tolerance in Europe.” The British Journal of Sociology 63 (1): 146–67.
Bourdieu P. 1980. “Le Capital Social. Notes Provisoires.” Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales 31: 23.
Brehm J., and Rahn W.. 1997. “Individual-Level Evidence for the Causes and Consequences of Social Capital.” American Journal of Political Science 41 (3): 9991023.
Chong A., Fleming D., and Bejarano H.. 2011. “Trust and Trustworthiness in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters: Experimental Evidence from the 2010 Chilean Earthquake.” Working Paper 15, Institute for International Economic Policy.
Coleman J. S. 1990. Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Cragg J. G., and Donald S. G.. 1993, April. “Testing Identifiability and Specification in Instrumental Variable Models.” Econometric Theory 9 (02): 222–40.
David Q., Janiak A., and Wasmer E.. 2010. “Local Social Capital and Geographical Mobility.” Journal of Urban Economics 68 (2): 191204.
Davidson-Schmich L. K. 2006. “Searching for the Origins of Civic Community in Central Europe: Evidence from Eastern and Western Germany.” Democratization 13 (1): 95115.
Degli Antoni G. 2009. “Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivations to Volunteer and Social Capital Formation.” Kyklos 62 (3): 359–70.
Durlauf S. 2002. “On the Empirics of Social Capital.” The Economic Journal 112 (483): 459–79.
Freitag M. 2006. “Bowling the State Back In: Political Institutions and the Creation of Social Capital.” European Journal of Political Research 45 (1): 123–52.
Geweke J., and Keane M.. 2001. Computationally Intensive Methods for Integration in Econometrics, Volume 5 of Handbook of Econometrics, Chapter 56. Elsevier, 3463–568.
Glaeser E., Laibson D., and Sacerdote B.. 2002. “An Economic Approach to Social Capital.” The Economic Journal 112 (483): 437–58.
Glaeser E. L., Laibson D., Scheinkman J., and Soutter C.. 2000. “Measuring Trust.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 115 (3): 811–46.
Guiso L., Sapienza P., and Zingales L.. 2004. “The Role of Social Capital in Financial Development.” American Economic Review 94 (3): 526–56.
Hagopian F., and Mainwaring S.. 2005. The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America: Advances and Setbacks. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Hero R. E. 2007. Racial Diversity and Social Capital: Equality and Community in America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Hiskey J. T., and Bowler S.. 2005. “Local Context and Democratization in Mexico.” American Journal of Political Science 49 (1): 5771.
Joignant A. 2012. ¿Descentralización funcional o territorial? Elementos de sociología de los actores políticos en tres regiones de Chile (1989–2009). Nueva Agenda de Descentralización en Chile. Sentando más actores a la mesa. Ril Editores, pp. 511–58.
Kalter E., Phillips S., Espinosa-Vega M., Luzio R., Villafuerte M., and Singh M.. 2004. “Chile: Institutions and Policies Underpinning Stability and Growth.” Technical Report 231, International Monetary Fund.
Keele L. 2005. “Macro Measures and Mechanics of Social Capital.” Political Analysis 13 (2): 139–56.
Kim J.-Y. 2005. ““Bowling Together” isn't a Cure-All: The Relationship between Social Capital and Political Trust in South Korea.” International Political Science Review 26 (2): 193213.
Kleibergen F., and Paap R.. 2006. “Generalized Reduced Rank Tests Using the Singular Value Decomposition.” Journal of Econometrics 133 (1): 97126.
Klesner J. L. 2007. “Social Capital and Political Participation in Latin America: Evidence from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru.” Latin American Research Review 42 (2): 132.
Knack S., and Keefer P.. 1997. “Does Social Capital have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 112 (4): 1251–88.
Lederman D., Loayza N., and Soares R.. 2005. “Accountability and Corruption: Political Institutions Matter.” Economics & Politics 17 (1): 135.
Letki N. 2006. “Investigating the Roots of Civic Morality: Trust, Social Capital, and Institutional Performance.” Political Behavior 28 (4): 305–25.
Letki N. 2008. “Does Diversity Erode Social Cohesion? Social Capital and Race in British Neighbourhoods.” Political Studies 56 (1): 99126.
Maloney W. A., van Deth J. W., and Roßteutscher S.. 2008. “Civic Orientations: Does Associational Type Matter?Political Studies 56 (2): 261–87.
Manski C. F. 1993. “Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem.” The Review of Economic Studies 60 (3): 531–42.
Manzano S. 2004. “Mas Capital: Latino Politics And Social Capital.” Ph.D. thesis. The University of Arizona.
Manzano S. 2007. Bonding and Bridging. Latinos and Social Capital. Chapter 3. Latino Politics: Identity, Mobilization, and Representation. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, pp. 123–41.
McLaren L. M., and Baird V. A.. 2006. “Of Time and Causality: A Simple Test of the Requirement of Social Capital in Making Democracy Work in Italy.” Political Studies 54 (4): 889–97.
Migheli M. 2012. “Assessing Trust Through Social Capital? A Possible Experimental Answer.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 71 (2): 298327.
Morjé M., and Gilbert L.. 2008. “A Cross-National Comparison of the Internal Effects of Participation in Voluntary Organizations.” Political Studies 56 (1): 1232.
Newton K. 2006. “Political Support: Social Capital, Civil Society and Political and Economic Performance.” Political Studies 54 (4): 846–64.
Norris F. H., and Kaniasty K.. 1994. “Psychological Distress following Criminal Victimization in the General Population: Cross-sectional, Longitudinal, and Prospective Analyses.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 62 (1): 111.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2013. “National Urban Policy Reviews. The Case of Chile.” Technical report, OECD, Territorial Development Policy Committee. Available online at
Oxendine A., Sullivan J. L., Borgida E., Riedel E., Jackson M., and Dial J.. 2007. “The Importance of Political Context for Understanding Civic Engagement: A Longitudinal Analysis.” Political Behavior 29:3167.
Putnam R. 1993. Making Democracy Work. Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (with R. Leonardi and R. Nanetti).
Putnam R. D. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Roodman D. 2011, June. “Fitting Fully Observed Recursive Mixed-process Models with cmp”. Stata Journal 11 (2): 159206.
Rossteutscher S. 2008. Social Capital and Civic Engagement: A Comparative Perspective, Chapter 8. The Handbook of Social Capital. Oxford University Press, pp. 208–40.
Rothstein B., and Stolle D.. 2008. Political Institutions and Generalized Trust, Chapter 10. The Handbook of Social Capital. Oxford University Press, pp. 273302.
Sabatini F., Cáceres G., and Cerda J.. 2001. “Residential Segregation in the main Chilean cities: Trends in the Last Three Decades and Possible Courses of Action.” EURE (Santiago) 27 (82): 2142. (In Spanish).
Sovey A. J., and Green D. P.. 2011. “Instrumental Variables Estimation in Political Science: A Readers' Guide.” American Journal of Political Science 55 (1): 188200.
Stock J. H., and Yogo M.. 2005. Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression. Identification and Inference for Econometric Models: Essays in Honor of Thomas Rothenberg. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 80108.
Terza J. V. 1987. “Estimating Linear Models with Ordinal Qualitative Regressors.” Journal of Econometrics 34 (3): 275–91.
Tesei A. 2012. “Racial Fragmentation, Income Inequality and Social Capital: New Evidence from the US.” Unpublished manuscript.
Torcal M., and Mainwaring S.. 2003. “The Political Recrafting of Social Bases of Party Competition: Chile, 1973–95.” British Journal of Political Science 33: 5584.
Train K. 2009. Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation, second edition. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Uslaner E. M. 2002. The Moral Foundations of Trust. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Uslaner E. M. 2008. Trust as a Moral Value, Chapter 4. The Handbook of Social Capital. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 101–21.
Valdivieso P. 1998. “Ética Política y Éxito Moral.” Revista de Ciencia Política 19 (2): 344.
Valenzuela J. S., Scully T. R., and Somma N.. 2007. “The Enduring Presence of Religion in Chilean Ideological Positionings and Voter Options.” Comparative Politics, 1–20.
van Oorschot W., and Finsveen E.. 2009. “The Welfare State and Social Capital Inequality. An Empirical Exploration using Longitudinal European/World Values Study data from 13 Western Welfare States.” European Societies 11 (2): 383407.
Van Praag B. M., and Ferrer-i-Carbonell A.. 2008. Happiness Quantified: A Satisfaction Calculus Approach. Revised edition, New York: Oxford University Press.
Von Erlach E. 2005. “Politisierung in Vereinen. Eine empirische Studie zum Zusammenhang zwischen der Vereinsmitgliedschaft und der Teilnahme an politischen Diskussionen.” Swiss Political Science Review 11 (3): 2759.
Wagle D. R. 2006. “Political Participation and Civic Engagement in Kathmandu: An Empirical Analysis with Structural Equations.” International Political Science Review 27 (3): 301–22.
Watson T., Carlino G., and Ellen I. G.. 2006. “Metropolitan Growth, Inequality, and Neighborhood Segregation by Income.” Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs, 1–52.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Valdivieso and Villena-Roldán Supplementary Material

 PDF (346 KB)
346 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 11
Total number of PDF views: 137 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 587 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.