Publication - Research and analysis

Exploring Dimensions of Social Capital in Scotland Findings from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey and Scottish Household Survey

Published: 29 Oct 2012
ISBN:
9781782560951

The report explores whether different groups in society experience different levels of social capital. It draws on data from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA) 2009 and the Scottish Household Survey 2010.

Exploring Dimensions of Social Capital in Scotland Findings from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey and Scottish Household Survey
4 Detailed Findings

4 Detailed Findings

4.1 The findings discussed here are based on the regression analyses described above. Where a factor is described as significantly associated with one of the measures of social capital, this indicates (unless otherwise specified in text or footnotes) that it is independently statistically significant, even after its relationship with other variables is taken into account in a regression model.14 Full output from the regression analyses conducted for this paper are included in Annex A. In the following discussion, simple percentages are used (based on bivariate cross-tabulations) to illustrate key points.

Social networks and support

4.2 As discussed above, networks are central to definitions of social capital. The relationships people have with others are both a source of support to them as individuals and key to enabling mutual cooperation towards shared outcomes. This section explores findings from three questions from SSA 2009 relating to access to social networks and social support.

4.3 The first two questions relate to networks that could be characterised as bridging, since they describe relationships with neighbours and others in the local area. Respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed that:

  • 'I regularly stop and speak to people in my area' and
  • 'If my home was empty, I could count on one of my neighbours to keep an eye on it'.

4.4 Having regular contact with others in the local area varies significantly with whether one lives in an urban or rural area, age and, to a lesser extent, education and gender15 (Table 2):

  • 51% of those in remote rural areas agreed strongly that they regularly stop and speak to people in their area compared with only 20% of people living in large urban areas.
  • 37% of those aged 65 or over agreed strongly that they regularly stop and speak to people in their area compared with 17% of 18-29 year olds.
  • People with degrees were somewhat less likely than other groups to agree that they regularly stop and speak to people in their local area (67% compared with 74-78% of those with lower levels of qualification).16 This perhaps reflects graduates belonging to more geographically dispersed social networks, rather than networks defined by their local area.
  • Women were more likely to agree strongly that they regularly stop and speak to people in their area.

Table 2 - Agree/disagree that 'I regularly stop and speak to people in my area' by age, education, urban-rural (SSA 2009)

Agree strongly Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree/ Strongly disagree Sample size
% % % % N
Age
18-29 17 43 11 30 179
30-39 19 48 12 21 223
40-64 27 48 9 15 677
65+ 37 49 5 9 402
Urban-rural
Large urban 20 48 9 23 437
Other urban 21 48 11 20 375
Accessible small town 34 45 10 11 123
Remote small town 34 54 5 7 105
Accessible rural 33 46 7 13 264
Remote rural 51 42 4 3 178
Education
Degree/HE 27 40 12 21 490
Highers/A-levels 24 52 8 17 231
Standard Grades/GCSEs 25 53 8 14 427
None 28 46 7 20 324
Gender
Female 28 47 7 18 826
Male 23 47 12 18 656

4.5 Table 3 shows that tenure was the only factor significantly associated with agreeing or strongly agreeing that 'if my home was empty, I could count on one of my neighbours to look after it'. Owner-occupiers were most likely to strongly agree or agree that they have a neighbour they could count on to keep an eye on their home (92% of owner-occupiers agreed with this statement, compared with 75% of social renters and 66% of private renters - Table 3).17 One explanation for why only tenure was significant in the regression is that the regression analysis combines those who strongly agree and agree together. At the bivariate level people in the least deprived areas, rural areas and older people are all more likely to agree strongly that they can count on their neighbours.

Table 3 - Agree/disagree that 'If my home was empty, I could count on one of my neighbours to keep an eye on it' by tenure (SSA 2009)

Agree strongly Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree/ Strongly disagree Sample size
% % % % N
Tenure
Owner 43 48 4 4 979
Social renter 29 47 6 17 152
Private renter 25 40 4 30 331

4.6 The third question asked people how much they agreed or disagreed that: 'I feel that there are people in this area I could turn to for advice and support'. This could be characterised as measuring the existence of closer networks, or bonding social capital. Here, whether people lived in urban or rural areas and area deprivation were particularly significant (Table 4).

  • People in remote rural areas were significantly more likely than those in urban areas to feel they had people locally they could turn to for advice (90% of those in remote rural areas agreed with this statement, compared with 67% in large urban areas).
  • People in the most deprived areas were less likely to have someone to turn to locally (65% of those in the most deprived areas agreed with this statement, compared with 82% of those in the least deprived areas).

Table 4 - Agree/disagree that 'I feel that there are people in this area I could turn to for advice and support' by age, urban-rural, area deprivation and tenure (SSA 2009)

Agree strongly Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree/ Strongly disagree Sample size
% % % % N
Urban-rural
Large urban 20 47 13 20 437
Other urban 18 51 13 17 375
Accessible small town 29 43 12 15 123
Remote small town 34 49 8 9 105
Accessible rural 29 49 7 15 264
Remote rural 42 48 4 6 178
Area deprivation
1st Least deprived 28 53 7 11 288
2nd 32 42 12 14 346
3rd 20 51 11 17 317
4th 20 47 14 19 278
5th Most deprived 15 49 12 23 253
Age
18-29 13 53 13 21 179
30-39 21 47 15 16 223
40-64 25 46 11 17 677
65+ 32 49 7 12 402
Tenure
Owner 27 48 11 13 979
Private renter 15 45 12 27 152
Social renter 17 51 11 21 331

4.7 It would appear from Table 4 that the proportion who strongly agree that they have someone they can turn to increases with age, from 13% of those aged 18-29 to 32% of those over 65. However, although age was also significant in the regression analysis (model 3), once other factors are taken into account the relationship between the different age categories and agreeing that you have people locally you can turn to for advice was less clear: while age as a whole was significant, the 30-39, 40-64 and 65+ categories were not significantly different from the reference category (18-29). Similarly, at the bivariate level owner-occupiers were significantly more likely than both social and private renters to agree strongly that they had people locally they could turn to for advice and support, perhaps because they are a less transient population and are more likely to have lived in their home for longer than those who are renting. However, tenure is only marginally significant in the regression analysis.18

Social trust

4.8 Trust is a core element of social capital and features strongly in the theoretical and research literature. Strongly correlated to social participation (for example, taking part in groups or clubs, or volunteering),19 trust is viewed as an essential part of building the relationships which sit at the heart of the concept of social capital. SSA has included a question on 'general' social trust on a regular basis since 2000. Respondents are asked 'Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted, or that you can't be too careful in dealing with people?' Regression analysis shows that men, people living in less deprived areas and people living in remote rural areas and remote small towns were all relatively more likely to think most people can be trusted (Table 5):

  • 58% of men compared with 45% of women said most people can be trusted. This finding reflects recent analysis of Understanding Society (the UK's household longitudinal study) which showed that men were more likely than women to exhibit higher levels of trust (Ferragina et al, 2011).
  • People living in the least deprived areas of Scotland were more than twice as likely to say that most people can be trusted compared with those in the most deprived areas: 65% compared with 31%.
  • 68% of those living in remote rural areas and 62% of those living in remote small towns felt that most can be trusted, compared with 46-48% of those in large or other urban areas.

4.9 Education was also statistically significantly related to trust, although the pattern was not completely linear. Sixty-two per cent of those with degrees, compared with 40% of those with standard grade-level qualifications and 45% of those with no qualifications felt most could be trusted. Again, this reflects similar findings from Understanding Society. Finally, although only marginally significant in multivariate analysis, at the bivariate level tenure was significant - 58% of owner-occupiers, compared with 32% of social renters said most can be trusted.

Table 5 - 'Most people can be trusted or can't be too careful in dealing with people' by gender, education, urban-rural and area deprivation (SSA 2009)

Most people can be trusted Can't be too careful dealing with people Sample size
% % N
Gender
Female 45 51 826
Male 58 41 656
Area deprivation
1st Least deprived 65 33 288
2nd 62 36 346
3rd 54 45 317
4th 43 54 278
5th Most deprived 31 65 253
Urban-rural
Large urban 48 49 437
Other urban 46 52 375
Accessible small town 52 47 123
Remote small town 62 35 105
Accessible rural 61 37 264
Remote rural 68 29 178
Education
Degree/HE 62 35 490
Highers/A-levels 56 40 231
Standard Grades/GCSEs 40 58 427
None 45 52 324
Tenure
Owner 58 40 979
Private renter 51 65 152
Social renter 32 45 331

Involvement in community and civic life (participation)

4.10 Social and civic participation are included as two separate dimensions of social capital in the ONS measurement framework. Social participation concerns involvement in groups around leisure, social activities or voluntary organisations whereas civic participation is about having your voice heard in society. Measures of the former could include participation in volunteering, or in social clubs and groups. Measures of the latter include voting behaviour, contact with elected officials, involvement in campaigns, confidence in institutions and people's perceptions of their ability to influence political decisions.

Social participation

4.11 This report looks at just one measure of social participation - volunteering. Education, whether people lived in an urban or rural area, class, gender and area deprivation were all significantly associated with participation in volunteering in the last 12 months, as measured by SHS 2010.

4.12 The direction of the relationships with urban-rural and area deprivation is similar to that seen above for social networks and social trust - that is, higher levels of volunteering are seen among those living in rural areas and those in the least deprived areas of Scotland. People in remote rural areas are particularly likely to have volunteered - 47%, compared with 28% of people living in large urban areas and 29% in other urban areas. Other studies have often noted issues around availability of services in rural areas (e.g. Scottish Government, 2011). It is possible that higher rates of volunteering in remote areas reflect perceptions of rural services - that people volunteer in part to fill perceived gaps in service availability.

4.13 Meanwhile, just 17% of those in the most deprived areas have volunteered, compared with 39% of people living in the least deprived areas of Scotland (Table 6). Participation in volunteering also increased with level of educational qualification - from 15% among those with no qualifications to 43% among graduates.

Table 6 - Whether volunteered in past 12 months by gender, education, class, income, urban-rural and area deprivation (SHS 2010)

Yes - have volunteered in past 12 mths No - have not volunteered in past 12 mths Sample size
% % N
Education
Degree/HE 43 57 2065
Highers/A-levels 36 64 761
Standard Grades/GCSEs 28 72 952
None 15 85 1810
Class
Employers/mgrs & professional 46 54 1288
Intermediate occupations 31 69 410
Small employers/ own account workers 37 63 304
Lower supervisory & technical 22 78 385
Semi-routine & routine occupations 25 75 1046
Urban-rural
Large urban 28 72 1602
Other urban 29 71 1822
Accessible small town 32 68 523
Remote small town 34 66 363
Accessible rural 38 62 785
Remote rural 47 53 540
Gender
Female 34 66 3184
Male 29 71 2452
Area deprivation
1st Least deprived 39 61 1083
2nd 38 62 1259
3rd 32 68 1217
4th 27 73 1161
5th Most deprived 17 83 914
Income
£11,999 or less 23 77 1434
£12k-£22,999 26 74 1815
£23K-£37,999 36 64 1319
£38K+ 42 58 887

4.14 Although women were less likely to think most people could be trusted (and trust has been linked with higher levels of volunteering - see for example Brown and Ferris, 2004), they were more likely to have participated in volunteering (34% compared with 29% of men). Social class was also significant - employers and managers were most likely to have volunteered (46% compared with 22-37% of other socio-economic class groups). Meanwhile, at the bivariate level those earning over £23,000 were more likely to have volunteered (36-42%, compared with 23-26% of those earning under £23,000). However, the relationship between volunteering and income was only marginally significant when other factors are controlled for in multivariate regression analysis.

4.15 Thus overall the picture that emerges in relation to social participation is that it is those who are already in a more privileged socio-economic position in society who are most likely to spend time volunteering. Employers, managers or professionals, people earning more than £23,000 per annum, those with more formal qualifications and people living in the least deprived areas were all more likely to volunteer. In addition women and those living in rural areas were more likely to be involved in volunteering. These findings are consistent with those reported in the 2009 SHS annual report (Scottish Government, 2011), which showed lower levels of volunteering among those in the most deprived areas of Scotland and those earning less than £15,000.

Civic participation

4.16 Four questions (two from SSA 2009 and two from SHS 2010) were used to explore levels of civic participation. The questions cover two aspects of civic participation: active involvement (both actual, and whether people would like to be more involved), and how empowered people feel to influence decisions locally. Respondents were asked:

  • Whether or not they had done anything to register their views on an issue in the last few years (SSA 2009) - analysis focused on those who had done something 'active' to make their views known (that is, something beyond simply signing a petition or giving money to a charity or campaign)
  • Whether they agreed or disagreed that 'It is just too difficult for someone like me to do much about improving my local area' (SSA 2009)
  • Whether they agreed or disagreed that 'I can influence decisions affecting my local area' (SHS 2010), and
  • Whether they agreed or disagreed that 'I would like to be more involved in the decisions my council makes that affect my local area' (SHS 2010).

4.17 Education was significantly associated with all four of these measures of civic participation (Tables 7-10). People with higher levels of educational qualification were more likely than those with lower or no qualifications to have already done something active to register their views, to feel more empowered to influence decisions affecting their area, and to want to be more involved in the decision making process. For example, Table 7 shows that 56% of people with degrees compared with only 33% of those with no recognised qualification had done something active to register their views in the past few years, while Table 9 shows that 26% of graduates compared with 17% of those with no qualifications strongly agreed or tended to agree that they could influence decisions affecting their local area.

4.18 Age was significant for three of the four measures. However, the pattern by age varied between different measures (Tables 7, 8 & 10):

  • People aged 40-64 were the age group most likely to have done something active to register their views (48% compared with 36-39% of those aged under 40).
  • Those aged under 65 years, and especially those aged 30-39 years-old were more likely than those in the oldest age group to say they would like to be more involved in council decisions affecting the local area (46% of those aged 30-39 years old strongly agreed or tended to agree that they would like to be more involved, compared with 18% of those aged 65 or above).
  • Meanwhile, people in both the oldest (65 plus) and youngest (18-29) age groups appear to be relatively more likely than those in the middle-age groups to feel that it is too difficult for them to do much about improving their local area (Table 8).20

4.19 In summary then, 40-64 year-olds were most likely to already be active in terms of civic participation, 30-39 year-olds were most likely to want to be more active in future, while both 18-29 year-olds and those aged 65 or older were more likely to feel disempowered with respect to their ability to influence decisions about their area. Further research could explore some of the reasons for these differences by age - for example, do older people feel disempowered because they are limited by mobility problems in terms of attending meetings? Or does the perceived lack of efficacy among older and younger people reflect a lack of knowledge about how to influence decisions, or a feeling that their views will not be listened to?

Table 7 - Whether participated to make views known by age, education and whether have a disability (SSA 2009)

Done nothing to register views Done something active to register views Done something passive to register views Sample size
% % % N
Education
Degree/HE 31 56 12 490
Highers/A-levels 51 39 10 231
Standard Grades/GCSEs 51 40 9 427
No recognised qualification 56 33 11 324
Age
18-29 53 36 12 179
30-39 46 39 15 223
40-64 41 48 10 677
65+ 46 45 8 402
Whether has a disability
Yes 43 49 8 457
No 46 42 12 1025
Income²
£11,999 or less 51 42 6 321
£12k-£22,999 41 47 11 288
£23K-£37,999 49 42 9 259
£38K+ 56 33 10 331

1 - Participants were asked to say which, if any, of a list of things they had done as a way of registering what they thought about an issue in the last few years. Those who only mentioned giving money or signing a petition were classed as having done something 'passive' to make their views known, on the basis that neither action requires significant time or engagement with others. Those who had taken one of the other actions listed (including contacting an MP, MSP or local council, attending meetings, going on protests, etc.) were classed as having done something more 'active' to make their views known.

2 - Income was marginally significant in the regression model, p=0.10.

Table 8 - Agreeing/ disagreeing 'It is just too difficult for someone like me to do much about improving my local area' by age, education, class, urban-rural and area deprivation (SSA 2009)

Agree strongly Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree/ Strongly disagree Sample size
% % % % N
Age
18-29 14 38 31 16 161
30-39 5 32 30 32 205
40-64 6 26 29 35 611
65+ 13 32 25 22 339
Education
Degree/HE 5 23 27 43 451
Highers/A-levels 9 31 30 27 208
Standard Grades/GCSEs 11 37 29 19 381
None 13 33 32 16 271
Class
Employers/mgrs & professional 5 26 24 42 482
Intermediate occupations 9 30 39 19 147
Small employers/ own account workers 8 26 31 30 122
Lower supervisory & technical 11 27 42 17 155
Semi-routine & routine occupations 12 38 26 19 386
Urban-rural
Large urban 10 32 28 27 382
Other urban 9 34 30 24 337
Accessible small town 8 26 33 31 105
Remote small town 6 24 37 22 87
Accessible rural 8 28 29 30 244
Remote rural 8 17 23 46 162
Area deprivation
1st Least deprived 3 27 29 38 261
2nd 7 27 27 35 313
3rd 8 29 38 22 285
4th 11 35 25 24 243
5th Most deprived 16 35 26 19 215

Table 9 - Agree/disagree 'I can influence decisions affecting my local area' by education and urban-rural (SHS 2010)

Strong agree/ tend to agree Neither agree nor disagree Tend to disagree Strongly disagree No opinion Sample size
% % % % % N
Education
Degree/HE 26 17 30 21 7 3191
Highers/A-levels 22 17 30 23 8 1254
Standard Grades/GCSEs 18 15 29 28 10 1521
None 17 14 28 31 10 2972
Urban-rural
Large urban 22 15 28 27 9 2971
Other urban 19 18 30 24 10 2732
Accessible small town 21 16 31 25 6 822
Remote small town 16 15 36 23 10 536
Accessible rural 23 15 29 26 8 1165
Remote rural 31 12 29 22 6 793

Table 10 - Agree/disagree 'I would like to be more involved in the decisions my council makes that affect my local area' by education and urban-rural (SHS 2010)

Strong agree/ tend to agree Neither agree nor disagree Tend to disagree Strongly disagree No opinion Sample size
% % % % % N
Age
16-29¹ 37 17 19 17 10 1249
30-39 46 15 17 16 6 1297
40-64 40 16 20 19 5 3878
65+ 18 12 29 34 6 2594
Education
Degree/HE 46 17 19 13 5 3191
Highers/A-levels 38 17 21 18 6 1254
Standard Grades/GCSEs 37 14 20 22 7 1521
None 22 13 24 34 8 2927
Urban-rural
Large urban 39 14 19 21 7 2971
Other urban 34 16 21 21 7 2732
Accessible small town 31 16 26 22 5 822
Remote small town 36 15 21 21 7 536
Accessible rural 36 16 21 21 6 1165
Remote rural 38 11 23 23 5 793

1-SHS collects data from individuals aged 16 and above, so all respondents to the survey are included in the analysis from aged 16. SSA, however, only includes respondents from age 18.

4.20 Other significant variations with respect to questions on civic participation included:

  • People living in remote rural areas, compared with people in all other types of areas, were more likely to feel empowered to influence local decisions and able to improve their local area. 31% of people in remote rural areas compared with 22% of people living in large urban areas strongly agreed or tended to agree that they could influence decisions affecting their local area.21
  • Social class was significantly associated with feeling able to improve the local area - 42% of employers, managers and professionals compared with 19% of those in routine or semi-routine occupations disagreed that it was too difficult for them to do anything about this.
  • Deprivation was also associated with feeling able to improve the local area. Although the pattern was less clear in the multivariate model, at the bivariate level, those in less deprived areas were less likely than those in the most deprived areas to feel it was too difficult for them to improve their local areas.22
  • People with a long-standing illness or disability were more likely than those without a disability to have done something active to register their views (49% compared with 42% respectively). This might in part reflect the older age profile of those with a disability, since older people are relatively more likely to have done something active to register their views. However, regression analysis suggests that disability is significant even once age is taken into account. An alternative interpretation would be that perhaps some disabled people see a greater need for change in society and are therefore more vocal about their views.23

Views of local area

4.21 The fifth and final dimension in the ONS social capital framework relates to people's views of their local area. As discussed above, although Harper (2002) acknowledges that positive views of the local area may not be a direct indicator or outcome of high social capital, it is an important correlate of it, and is therefore included in the ONS framework. Harper suggests that views of the local area can include views of the physical environment, facilities, enjoyment of living in the area and fear of crime or anti-social behaviour. This report focuses on one specific more negative aspect of views of local area - perceptions of how problematic anti-social behaviour is believed to be in the local area (based on data from SSA 2009). Anti-social behaviour (ASB) was described to respondents as 'behaviour like vandalism, drunken and rowdy behaviour, revving car engines or other behaviour that might be a nuisance or annoyance to others' and respondents were asked to say whether such behaviour was a very big problem, quite a big problem, not a very big problem, or not a problem at all.

4.22 Whether people live in an urban or rural area and especially area deprivation were both strongly related to perceptions of antisocial behaviour, with those living in rural areas and in less deprived areas less likely to say that ASB is a problem. For example, 35% of people in the least deprived areas of Scotland said that ASB is not a problem at all in their area, compared with only 11% of people in the most deprived areas (Table 11). Meanwhile, 47% of those in remote rural areas compared with between 18% and 22% of those in urban areas or accessible small towns reported that anti-social behaviour was not a problem at all locally. Those on higher incomes were also less likely to feel that anti-social behaviour was a problem locally (28% of those with household incomes of £38,000 or more said anti-social behaviour was not a problem, compared with 19-21% of those on lower incomes).

4.23 Age and social class were also significantly associated with thinking anti-social behaviour was a problem at a bivariate level, though each was only marginally significant when other factors were taken into account in multivariate analysis. While the bivariate pattern by social class was not linear, older people were less likely than younger people to say that ASB was a problem (80% of those aged 65 or older compared with 59% of 18-29 year-olds said ASB was not a big problem or not a problem at all).

Table 11 - How big a problem anti-social behaviour is in your local area by income, urban-rural and area deprivation (SSA 2009)

A very big problem Quite a big problem Not a very big problem Not a problem at all Sample size
% % % % N
Area deprivation
1st Least deprived * 12 53 35 295
2nd 3 12 53 33 319
3rd 7 21 45 26 287
4th 8 27 49 16 295
5th Most deprived 18 31 40 11 286
Urban-rural
Large urban 10 20 47 22 437
Other urban 6 22 53 18 375
Accessible small town 8 28 46 18 123
Remote small town 4 21 47 27 105
Accessible rural 3 14 46 37 264
Remote rural 2 12 40 47 178
Income
£11,999 or less 10 29 42 19 321
£12k-£22,999 12 19 48 20 288
£23K-£37,999 8 22 49 21 259
£38K+ 4 16 52 28 331
Income unknown 3 18 48 31 283
Social class
Employers/mgrs & professional (reference) 5 16 52 26 532
Intermediate occupations 7 22 48 23 169
Small employers/ own account workers 8 21 33 38 139
Lower supervisory & technical 6 17 57 20 166
Semi-routine & routine occupations 8 26 45 21 442
Age
18-29 15 26 45 14 179
30-39 7 22 45 25 233
40-64 5 19 51 25 677
65+ 4 16 46 34 402

4.24 As noted in section 2, above, perceptions of ASB is only one (negative) indicator of people's views of the local area. It is possible that responses to questions that tap more positive aspects of the local area would be associated with different patterns. However, it is worth noting that analysis of questions exploring people's general rating of their area as a place to live in both SSA and SHS show broadly similar patterns to those described above. For example, Reid and Curtice (2010) found those on lower incomes and those in deprived areas were more likely than those on higher incomes and in less deprived areas to rate their areas below average as places to live. Meanwhile, the Scottish Household Survey (Scottish Government, 2011) has consistently found that those in rural areas of Scotland are more likely than their urban counterparts to rate their area as a 'very good' place to live.


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Email: Linzie Liddell