Exercise 4: So What?

Now it is time to focus your investigation on the concept of social capital. In chapters 16 through 22 of Bowling Alone, Putnam asks the question, "So What?" Up until this point, Putnam has dealt with a variety of variables, from attending club meetings to visiting with friends to trusting others. In this section of the book, he combines these variables into something called a "social capital index" and uses this index to examine the relationships (hypotheses) between social capital and concepts such as health, education, and democracy.

Table 4 on page 291 shows the 14 different variables that Putnam used to create his social capital index. All of these variables, taken together, are intended to "measure" or portray or the concept of social capital, much like a photographer taking a picture or an artist painting a portrait.

The creation of an index to measure the concept of social capital was an important undertaking, much like the consumer price index is for measuring the concept of inflation. However, once Robert Putnam's conceptualization of social capital began to spread in the scholarly and policy communities, both praise and criticism emerged. In his article, "The Myth of Social Capital in Community Development," James Defilippis writes that "with Putnam's re-definition, social capital ceases to be a useful framework for local or community economic development" (785). Defilippis focuses his criticism upon the unit of analysis (even though he does not explicitly use this term), arguing that social capital is a trait, originally possessed by individuals, which is then transformed by communities and nongovernmental associations. Look back at the description of the state-level dataset that Putnam uses to create his social capital index. Notice that he "aggregates" data from the individual-level, rather than the level of the community, to create many of the variables for use in his state-level social capital index.

Using the social capital index as an example, the following exercise will show you how to run and interpret correlations, create new variables using a compute command in SDA, and export SDA data into other statistical programs.

A. Reading

B. Learning and Practicing: Running and Interpreting Correlations

  • Learn how to run and interpret correlations

  • Practice running a correlation on the social capital index and "turnout in presidential elections, 1988 and 1992"

  • Answer Questions 4-5

C. Learning and Practicing: Using the Compute Command to Create New Variables

  • Learn how to use the compute command to create new variables

  • Answer Question 6

D. Learning and Practicing: Exporting Data Into other Statistical Programs

  • Learn how to export data into other statistical programs

  • Answer Questions 7-8

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