Friday, 31 January 2014

Poverty and social networks - key concepts

Social networks across the literature there is no single definition of social networks, they can vary from knowing a neighbour to say “hello” to, to having strong ties to kin and friends that individuals can rely on.

Social Capital the concept of social capital is used widely in sociology and political science. It focuses attention on social networks that offer benefits for members. There are two key conceptions; firstly derived from Robert Putnam’s work. This focuses on the extent of network membership and the amount of trust within networks. Societies with high levels of this sort of social capital are seen to be functioning more effectively than those without. The second is derived from the work of Pierre Bourdieu and critically aligns social capital with the unequal distribution of economic capital in society. It focuses on networks as means to gain influence and access to resources in society to accumulate further resources.

Poverty the report is based upon the JRF’s definition of poverty used to frame the research programme:
“when a person’s resources (mainly their material resources) are not sufficient to meet minimum needs (including social participation).”
In using this in data analysis we have chosen the consensual measure used in successive Poverty and Social Exclusion surveys in the UK. In secondary data collected for this review various measures of poverty and low income have been used, with varying strengths and weaknesses, including: UK income measure of two-thirds median equivalised household income, or equivalent; income-based poverty measures of other countries (US, Netherlands, Norway); the Market Research Association’s Social Grades; the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification; and commonly tenure, or employment status as a proxy for poverty or concentrated deprivation.

Weak ties/strong ties the sociology of Mark Granovetter focused attention on the strength of relationships within social networks. His early work identified large numbers of weak ties among professional employees that enabled them to access information about work opportunities and advancement. This has been contrasted with the limited networks of strong ties that people in less skilled labour markets rely on to change between similar level jobs.
Similarly a distinction has been made between the “bonding” social capital within less affluent communities that helps people get by, for example, being able to call on people for childcare, and the “bridging” capital of more affluent communities that helps people get on by, for example, being able to access work opportunities or advice.

Reciprocity many social networks are based on reciprocity – the return of favours or resources granted. Reciprocity can be individualised or generalised. Individualised reciprocity is the giving of resources to an individual with an explicit agreement that there will be a reciprocal exchange. Generalised reciprocity is the provision of resources to individuals within a group with the knowledge that someone in that group will return resources in exchange at some point in the future. Networks of generalised reciprocity are thus high-trust networks.

Neighbourhood effects is the theory that there is an effect on an individual’s outcomes from living in a neighbourhood with a concentration of people with a certain characteristic, above and beyond the individual’s own characteristics. To put it simply in this case, it is the theory that experiencing poverty in a deprived neighbourhood is worse as the neighbourhood itself reduces the chances of leaving poverty.

Mixed community there is no single definition of a mixed community, but across the literature reviewed mixed communities were either mixed in terms of tenure, particularly in the UK where this can be a proxy for household income; mixed in terms of the incomes of households; mixed in terms of ethnic diversity, particularly in Netherlands and US context. UK evidence on mixed communities is mixed between evidence from neighbourhoods built as mixed through regeneration programmes and similar, and communities that have become mixed through tenure diversity as a result of the Right-to-Buy policies.

Digital divide is a contested term, but is largely understood to be the divide between people who have ready access to information communications technologies and those who do not. Two digital divides are more commonly identified: a socio-economic divide where less well-off people cannot afford the up-front of on-going cost of internet access; and a cohort divide where older people are not comfortable using newer technologies.

Web 2.0 and social networking web 2.0 generally refers to websites and other resources that allow people to create their own content on the web include blogs, video-sharing sites, audio-sharing sites, noticeboards and micro-blogging. Social networking, through sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is a subset of web 2.0 technologies that specifically allow people to share information with social networks.

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