What's social capital got to do with it? the ambiguous (and overstated) relationship between social capital and ghetto underemployment

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Abstract

This article draws on qualitative fieldwork with unemployed African-American men in St. Louis to demonstrate some of the manifold problems in attributing their marginality to 'low social capital'. I show how Putnam's extraordinarily popular formulation obscures the complex, double-edged effects of social capital across a segregated and highly unequal region. Extremely low levels of economic and educational capital blocked any conversion of the men's broad web of friendship and acquaintance into prosperity. Much more effective was the high (white) social capital concentrated outside the city, which continued to reinforce the spatial and economic marginality of African-American St. Louis, leaving residents with little advancement to offer each other beyond the volatile and destructive local drug industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-66
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Sociology
Volume37
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

Keywords

  • alienation
  • economic capital
  • poverty
  • race and ethnicity
  • social capital

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