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Thursday 16th July, 09:00 - 10:30 Room: N-131

Measuring social relations, social networks and social capital in comparative surveys 1

Convenor Mr Christof Wolf (GESIS - Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences )
Coordinator 1Mr Dominique Joye (University Lausanne)

Session Details

The measurement of social relations, social networks and social capital, here understood as resources accessible through one’s social relations, has attracted a lot of attention. Dependent on the intended purpose there exists instruments to measure aspects of specific relations (spouse, best friend), instrument capturing “personal communities”, i.e. the egocentric network approach, or instruments measuring social capital through, for example, social support questionnaires or the position or resource generators.

While we know a lot about the performance of these measures in a national context we lack information on their performance in comparative studies. This session therefore aims to explore the challenges posed by adapting survey instruments measuring social relations, social networks and social capital to a comparative, cross-national investigation. These challenges include problems of
• equivalence of the meaning of stimuli; e.g. do the terms “friends”, “discuss important matters” or “to be close to someone” have the same meaning across countries.
• equivalence of resources; e.g. is knowing a person who can lend me money or who can repair my car equally important in all societies? or
• equivalence of occupations selected for the position generator; e.g. can we find a set of occupations that reflects the entire social structure of different countries equally well?

Of course, these are only few selected examples and there exists many more. We welcome all contributions investigating the challenges encountered when trying to measure social relations, network and capital in cross-national surveys

Paper Details

1. Cross-cultural (and mode-independent) measurement of social networks and social resources in population surveys
Professor Dominique Joye (University of Lausanne, Switzerland)
Dr Marlène Sapin (FORS, Switzerland)
Professor Christof Wolf (GESIS, Germany)

We focus on challenges posed by measuring networks and social relations cross-culturally, in particular if data collection mode varies.
We sketch progress made in network measurement and present main approaches of egocentric network questions, position and resource generators. The specific challenges posed by employing these instruments to compare social resources cross-culturally are discussed.
Next we present results from survey experiments designed to test the validity of measures of network and resource dimensions, their comparability, as well as their cultural invariance.
We end with suggestions for next steps in the development of cross-cultural measures of networks and relationships.

2. Using the Position Generator in Cross-national Surveys: Potentials and Challenges
Professor Yang-chih Fu (Academia Sinica, Taiwan)
Professor Nan Lin (Duke University, U.S.A.)

Based on the studies covering America, Europe, and Asia, we examine how different versions of the position generator vary in the number and types of positons, which items tend to be universal, and which positions differ from society to society. We then use pooled compatible survey data from the U.S.A., China, and Taiwan (N=9,809) to explore whether the results from identical positions may be due to societal variations in specific occupations. To assess the relative validity of cross-national survey items, we also compare possible limitations of the position generator with another popular measure of social

3. Neighbourhood social capital in cross-national comparative research: measurement equivalence of collective efficacy scales in Australian and German community surveys
Mr Dominik Gerstner (Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law)
Dr Elise Sargeant (University of Queensland)
Dr Dietrich Oberwittler (Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law)

Social capital encompasses social relations and exchange between residents and more latent dimensions of trust, cohesion and expectations for mutually beneficial action. Due to its inherently local perspective, cross-national comparative research on neighbourhood-level social capital is rare. We present findings from comparative community studies in two Australian (300 neighbourhoods in Brisbane & Melbourne) and two German (140 neighbourhoods in Cologne & Essen) cities. Both surveys represent a large variety of local communities in urban centres in two (post-)industrial and ethnically diverse societies. The studies use identical scales to measure community social capital. Equivalence is tested with confirmatory factor analyses.

4. „Would you trust and/or can´t you be too careful in dealing with others?“ Inconsistencies in measuring generalized trust and its challenges for survey research on trust
Professor Peter Graeff (Kiel University)
Ms Saskia Fuchs (Kiel University)

We compare two different operationalizations of generalized trust for German survey samples: the standard dichotomous item (EVS, Allbus) and a two item operationalization (Soep), one for trust and one for the reluctance to deal with others. There is a substantial amount of respondents in the Soep survey, who state to trust others in general and – simultaneously – are careful in dealing with others. Since this descriptive result questions the application of a dichotomous operationalization, we apply factor/canonical correlation analysis in order to find out about the reasons. We will discuss the ramifications for surveying general trust in comparative studies.