Measures of Indigenous social capital and their relationship with well-being


  • Nicholas Biddle B.Ec (Hons), M.Ed., PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
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Dr Nicholas G. Biddle, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Copland Building #24, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 0200, Australia. Email:


Objective:  To provide the first estimates of a comprehensive measure of social capital for the Indigenous population and to link the indicators to well-being.

Design:  Observational study-based.

Setting:  Household survey.

Participants:  Nationally representative sample of 7823 Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over who were usual residents of private dwellings.

Main outcome measure:  Whether or not the respondent felt happy in the last 4 weeks all or most of the time (happiness), and whether or not they felt so sad that nothing could cheer them up at least a little bit of the time over the same period (sadness).

Results:  There were no consistent differences in social capital measures between Indigenous men and women, nor were there consistent differences between the remote and non-remote population. High levels of social capital were, however, associated with higher subjective well-being.

Conclusion:  Social capital is both an indicator and determinant of well-being. It was possible to derive an index of social capital for Indigenous Australians that had a strong positive association with self-reported happiness and a negative association with self-reported sadness. However, the analysis also showed that there are a set of related domains of social capital, rather than there being a single underlying concept.