Social capital consists of the resources embedded in a person’s network, that is, the resources controlled by the people that the person knows. Such resources include material resources (e.g., money or material possessions), social resources such as useful contacts, and cultural resources including valuable knowledge. If a person’s contacts have such resources, they may be willing to make them available to the person. This entry will describe and explain how the level of social capital varies over the life course, and how life-course patterns vary between social groups and between different kinds of societies.

It is difficult to measure the resources in a person’s network directly, though scholars have explored an approach called the resource generator. Although direct methods have had limited success so far, a ...

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