Community Heterogeneity: A Burden for the Creation of Social Capital?


  • * Direct correspondence to Hilde Coffé, Katholieke Universiteit Brussel, Vrijheidslaan 17, B-1081 Brussels, Belgium 〈〉. The authors will share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate the study. They thank Didier Willaert, Katrien Lauwerysen, and Tom Colpaert for making available their data. Previous versions of this article were presented at the Marktdag Sociologie (Brussels, Belgium, June 2005), and at the Second TSCF Meeting on Social Capital (Buggiba, Malta, September 2005). The authors are grateful to Aimee Milagrosa, Liz Thomas, and the participants of the mentioned conferences. They also thank Pamela Paxton, Robert Putnam, and Wendy Rahn for their valuable insights. The SSQ anonymous reviewers provided comments that significantly improved the work.


Objective. This study examines the relationship between community heterogeneity and social capital on the local government level.

Method. We apply both OLS and interval regression techniques to objective macro data of 307 Flemish municipalities for the year 2000.

Results. Our results show that, after controlling for various socioeconomic characteristics of the municipality, income inequality is not significantly correlated with the municipality's level of social capital. We do find a significant negative relation between social capital and the number of nationalities within a municipality. Yet, contrary to the prevailing argument in the literature, it is not the presence of people with a clearly different ethnic-cultural background that drives this negative relation.

Conclusions. In accordance with previous international findings, municipalities with large groups of differing nationalities among its citizenry are confronted with a lower level of social capital. Importantly, however, our findings emphasize the need to distinguish between different groups of nationalities and argue for explanations beyond “simple” ethnic-cultural disparities.