2017/13: The more educated, the more engaged? An analysis of social capital and education
Social capital can be understood as network-based civic engagement, based on reciprocity and trust. This sociological approach, however, is faced with problems when assuming network-based social capital as a stock of capital. Any form of capital should have a positive economic payoff, should be measurable, and should define the mechanisms through which social capital can be accumulated and depreciated (Solow, 1995). To meet these criteria, we refer to social capital as “persistent and shared beliefs and values that help a group overcome the free rider problem in the pursuit of socially valuable activities” (Guiso et al., 2010). In this study, we assess the role of education as a potential accumulation mechanism of civic awareness and social trust. We implement a pseudo-panel data approach to identify, specifically in Italy, the effect of education on social capital. The findings show that participation in education is likely to foster higher levels of social capital, understood as a culture-based concept of civic engagement. In Italy, we also observe heterogeneous effects depending on the geographical location along the north-south axis. The Islands and the South, geographical areas in which levels of social capital are typically lower, are the areas where education shows a higher impact on civic awareness and social trust. We discuss and substantiate the results in terms of education policy implications.