Welfare States and Dimensions of Social Capital: Cross-national comparisons of social contacts in European countries

Peer Scheepers, Manfred te Grotenhuis, John Gelissen

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We set out to describe and explain differences in the amount of some dimensions of social capital within and between European societies. Social capital refers to a wide range of social phenomena; however, we focus on social contacts with family and friends. We derive hypotheses about cross-national differences in social Capital from theories on the nature of welfare state regimes. We test these hypotheses with multi-level analyses on Eurobarometer data, collected in thirteen countries. We find significant variance across different countries. This variance is partly explained by individual characteristics: religious people and people living in medium-sized or rural towns have more social contacts. Moreover, we find quite differential effects of other individual characteristics on social contacts and no effects of political stances. Differences in the crossnational compositions in educational attainment and household size also account for the variance in social contacts. Finally, people living in socialdemocratic regimes turn out to have the smallest amount of social contacts, whereas people living in the Latin Rim have the largest amount. In between, we find people living in liberal, respectively, conservative-corporatist regimes. This explanation is opposed to the hypothesis that it is the difference in social security rates that causes differences in social capital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185
Number of pages1
JournalEuropean Societies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • multilevel analyses
  • welfare states
  • social contacts
  • individual determinants

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