Does social capital flatten the social gradient in early childhood development? An ecological study of two provinces in Canada

Anita Minh*, Lisa Ritland, Simon Webb, Barry Forer, Marni Brownell, Eric Duku, Monique Gagne, Magdalena Janus, Nazeem Muhajarine, Martin Guhn

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Social capital is thought to buffer the negative effects of low income on health and thereby flatten the social gradient. Child development research on social capital has suggested that social networks of adults and children in a neighborhood may play a protective role in children's outcomes. Yet little is known about how this relationship applies to diverse developmental outcomes in early childhood. This study examines whether the presence of role model adults and the willingness of neighbors to help keep children safe moderates the relationship between neighborhood income and five developmental outcomes for children in kindergarten: (1) physical health and well-being, (2) social competence, (3) emotional maturity, (4) language and cognitive development, and (5) communication and general knowledge. We linked neighborhood-level data on child development from two Canadian provinces, British Columbia (BC, n = 100) and Ontario (n = 482), to neighborhood-level data on social capital from the Ontario Kindergarten Parent Survey, and the BC Social Capital Study; and income data from the 2006 Canadian Census. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine the main and interaction effects of social capital and income in relation to child development outcomes. In Ontario, higher levels of social capital were associated with better child outcomes on all five developmental domains. Similar trends were observed in BC. Higher levels of social capital flattened the income gradient in language and cognitive development in both provinces, and social competence in Ontario. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)549–568
    Number of pages20
    JournalSocial Indicators Research
    Issue number2
    Early online date22-Jul-2021
    Publication statusPublished - Jan-2022


    • Social capital
    • Income
    • Early childhood development
    • EDI
    • Social gradient
    • Moderation
    • INCOME
    • RISK

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