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Tomi Oinas, Petri Ruuskanen, Mari Hakala and Timo Anttila

In this study, the authors examine whether social capital embedded in individuals' social networks is connected to employees' long-term income development in Finland.

Abstract

Purpose

In this study, the authors examine whether social capital embedded in individuals' social networks is connected to employees' long-term income development in Finland.

Design/methodology/approach

Analyses are based on 25–35-year-old employees from the Finnish Living Conditions Survey of 1994 combined with register data on earned incomes from 1995 to 2016. The authors used questions addressing the frequency of meeting parents or siblings, spending free time with co-workers and participation in associational, civic or other societal activities as measures of the extent of network capital. Ordered logistic model was used to examine whether the size and composition of social networks differ by gender and socio-economic status. Linear growth curve models were employed to estimate the effect of social capital on long-term income development.

Findings

Results indicate minor differences in network composition according to gender, but large differences between socio-economic groups. The authors found that income development was faster for those who participated in civic activities occasionally or who met their relatives or co-workers on a monthly basis, that is, for the “middle group”.

Research limitations/implications

Results are generalizable only to Finnish or Nordic welfare state context. The authors’ measures of social capital come from cross-sectional survey. Thus, the authors are not able to address the stability or accumulation of social capital during life course. This restriction will probably cause the authors’ analysis to underestimate the true effect of social capital on earned incomes.

Practical implications

Moderate-level investments to network capital seem to be the most beneficial with regard to the long-term income development.

Social implications

The study results give support to the idea that social capital can be transformed into economic capital. The results also imply that in economic terms it is important to balance diverse forms of social capital. At the policy level, a special emphasis should be directed to employees with low-socio-economic position. These people are especially vulnerable as their low level of income is combined with network composition that hinders their further income development.

Originality/value

The combined survey and register data give unique insight on how the social capital embedded in individuals' social networks is connected with long-term income development.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 40 no. 11/12
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

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