Social Capital and Self-Employment: A Network Analysis Experiment and Several Considerations

  • Barbieri P
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Abstract

In this article, the author investigates individuals’ social capital, adopting a micro-relational perspective. The definition of social capital adopted is centred on personal contacts and exchanges. Reconstructing individuals’ net-works can precisely depict the network resources utilized by the actors. The study builds on the accumulated knowledge of previous research and literature on social capital, but directs attention to occupational division among the self-employed. The typology of (solo) self-employment that is introduced represents a variety of forms of self-employment activities in advanced economies, ranging from highly educated and profitable professionals to the poorly educated and often precarious unskilled self-employed, and it has been proposed in order to evaluate the role that social capital differentials play in structuring individuals’ work experiences. The article stresses that not ‘any’ network can represent ‘social capital’. It is necessary to single out the important ‘social resources matrix’ that produces effective social capital which can be used by subjects in purposive ways. The article shows how the different amount of social capital among the three types of self-employed workers (professionals/skilled/unskilled) has a strong impact on individuals’ levels of work involvement and psychological distress. By combining the network-operationalization of social capital with a ‘case by variable’ logic of analysis, it is demonstrated that social capital can be quite useful to explain differences in individuals’ well-being. In this sense, the article poses the question about social capital as a factor of social inequality.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Network analysis
  • Self-employed
  • Social capital
  • Social resources
  • Work attitudes

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Authors

  • Paolo Barbieri

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