Understanding Indirect Measurement
Proxy indicators are ways to indirectly approximate the measurement of a phenomenon when a direct measure is not available or accessible. For example, “years of education” is a common proxy indicator for human capital. We would never equate our years of education with the sum of our talents; it is simply one useful factor in conducting a broader objective analysis of our talents. Likewise, the proxy indicators for social capital are not intended to be direct or standalone measures, but instead to aid in a larger analysis. For example, finding that trust in Community A is higher than that in Community B would be one factor that may support a conclusion that Community A has a relatively higher level of social capital than Community B.
The Social Capital Proxy Indicators
Based on findings from the World Bank Social Capital Initiative presented in Understanding and Measuring Social Capital
Indicators Related to Structural Social Capital
Understanding the tangible structures and processes surrounding membership in local organizations and networks
- Density of Membership: the number of community organizations and average household membership
- Diversity of Membership: the diversity of members by factors including gender, age, religion, political affiliation and education
- Participation in Decision Making: the level of democratic functioning within organizations
- Inclusiveness in Access: equal access to services for diverse groups
Indicators Related to Cognitive Social Capital
Understanding the intangible values, attitudes and beliefs driving community trust and adherence to norms
- Solidarity: the likelihood of members coming together to respond to a community need
- Trust: the generalized trust of people in the community and transactional trust
- Harmony: community relations, conflict resolution and contribution to common goals
Social Capital Outputs
The World Bank proposes a third broad category of “output indicators” in contrast to those above that it categorizes as “input indicators.” The primary output indicator presented is collective action, which includes the extent and type of activities a community performs as a group, and members’ willingness to participate in those activities. Examples of collective action range from community-organized road maintenance to community-organized protests.
We have omitted this “output indicator” category from our list above because we believe that the output of collective action is predicted by the Solidarity and Harmony cognitive indicators above. Additionally, we believe that the network structures that enable collective action can be categorized as organizations for which Density of Membership can be measured.
Inclusiveness was also suggested an output indicator, but we see it as a legitimate predictor of structural social capital and included it as such on our list above.