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Threats, chances and opportunities: social capital in Europe in times of social and economic hardship

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The 2008 financial and economic crisis, characterized by an economic breakdown unparalleled since the Great Depression, provides a unique opportunity to study the relationships between economic developments and social capital by asking: How does social capital change in times of social and economic hardship? In order to explore the trends of social capital development, data from the European Social Survey 2002–2016 are used. The results suggest that economic decline – particularly increasing unemployment – is associated with a decline in social capital, especially in southern European countries. Furthermore, increasing long-term interest rates as an indicator of government future debt sustainability appear to be detrimental for social capital development. The impact of economic decline, however, appears to be contingent upon the functioning of state institutions: especially in countries characterized by well-functioning governments social capital is significantly less affected by economic decline than other countries.
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Keywords: Europe; Social capital; associations; democracy; economic crisis; trust

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany 2: ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany 3: Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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