Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Geography and Earth Sciences

Supervisor

John Eyles

Co-Supervisor

Allison Williams

Language

English

Committee Member

James Dunn

Abstract

This dissertation explores the assertion that social capital has migrated from the neighbourhood to the workplace, and if so, investigates how this relocation may influence health. Data from a large survey of residents of four neighbourhoods (n=1,504) demonstrated that the more time participants spent in the workplace, the less likely they were to report social capital in their neighbourhoods. Furthermore, participants who were employed reported better physical health than participants who were not employed. Even when significant, employment status, neighbourhood of residence, and social capital did were unable to explain much of the variance in health between the neighbourhoods.

In-depth interviews (n=24) of residents in two of the four neighbourhoods provided information on social capital in both the neighbourhood and the workplace simultaneously to determine if this migration took place. Residents reported access to social capital in both their neighbourhood and workplace demonstrating that social capital is not a restricted resource that can only be accessed in one community at a time, but is a fluid resource that can be accessed in multiple communities simultaneously. Further investigation found that residents accessed social capital in multiple communities as well as their neighbourhood and workplace. There was considerable intersection between these communities reinforcing the contention that social capital should not be measured in insolation. Until all the sources of social capital can be considered, the association between social capital and health would not be fully realized.

This study highlighted many methodological limitations. The lack of a clear definition and the resulting measurement challenges need to be addressed. Given the complexities of measuring social capital in multiple communities, restrictive research methods may prove inadequate. Future studies should look in the direction of qualitative research methods to manage these complexities successfully.

McMaster University Library

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