Social Capital and Social Class in Europe: The Role of Social Networks in Social Stratification

Florian Pichler, Claire Wallace

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94 Citations (Scopus)


Social capital has become a much researched concept and there has been much theoretical speculation about unequal access to it. However, the cross-national empirical analysis of social capital in relation to social stratification and social inequality is lacking. In this article, we explore the relationship between social stratification and social capital across 27 European countries using the Eurobarometer (EB) 62.2 (N = 27,000) carried out in autumn 2004. Through the use of statistical modelling we are able to determine the extent to which individual characteristics, including occupational position and education, are associated with different measures of social capital and to set this within a cross-national context. We find that social stratification is an important element in understanding social capital both at a country and at an individual level. Upper layers of society have higher levels of social capital, especially through associational networks (formal social capital), although informal contacts were not so clearly stratified by class. Countries with high levels of inequality magnified these differences between classes, giving the upper classes further advantages. Patterns of social capital, therefore, tend to reflect or even perpetuate the stratification patterns of the society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-332
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number3
Early online date25 Sept 2008
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


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