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How To Measure Social Capital: ABS

8 April 2004 at 1:04 pm
Staff Reporter
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has developed a new framework for measuring social capital.

Staff Reporter | 8 April 2004 at 1:04 pm


How To Measure Social Capital: ABS
8 April 2004 at 1:04 pm

How social capital might be measured has become a focus for researchers and policy analysts as they study individual and social wellbeing and the characteristics and functioning of families and community networks. Now the Australian Bureau of Statistics has developed a new framework for measuring social capital.

The ABS says the publication, Measuring Social Capital – An Australian Framework and Indicators, provides a comprehensive description of the meaning of social capital and the way its various dimensions might be measured.

The publication has been developed in consultation with a wide range of government and non-government agencies and research institutions. The paper is a contribution to national and international work on measuring social capital.

This framework is one of several produced recently by the ABS to simplify analysis of complicated topics and enable planners and policy makers to make better use of all the available statistics, and help the ABS to address gaps in data coverage.

The ABS has adopted the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) definition of social capital: “networks, together with shared norms, values and understandings which facilitate cooperation within or among groups”. This OECD definition is emerging as a common basis for international comparability.

The ABS is inviting comment and discussion on the social capital framework and the possible indicators and data items to be included.

Dennis Trewin, ABS Statistician says social capital is a topic of considerable interest to a wide range of people because of its links to individual and community wellbeing.

Yet Trewin says there is no internationally agreed framework of what constitutes social capital, how it accumulates in society, the impacts on communities and individuals, or how to measure the various elements and dimensions of social capital.

He says social capital is a multi-dimensional concept, and different elements of the framework may be appropriate for different purposes. Those interested in education or public health, for instance, may focus on different areas from those whose interest is in community renewal.

Trewin says the suggested framework provides a way of organising and relating these different approaches. The concept of social capital is also of interest to those concerned with the developing knowledge-based economy.

To express your views, please contact the Assistant Director, Community Statistics, Family and Community Statistics Section, at the following address:

Australian Bureau of Statistics
Locked Bag 10
Belconnen ACT 2616


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