A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation investigates the role of neighborhood vs networks in employment, non-profit agency use, and a number of other related issues. Social Capital and Social Geography by Jo Ann Schneider explores the importance that social capital and social geography have on family economic success. Comparing the role of physical geography and social geography, the report draws on data collected for the Making Connections Initiative to explain the roles of social capital and social geography in people’s survival strategies. Of particular interest is the role that nonprofit networks play in the delivery of trusted resources to low-income families and neighborhoods.
From the executive summary:
This report compares the role of physical geography and social geography in people’s survival strategies…This research joins with other studies to show that social geography has a much stronger influence on families than physical geography. Neighborhood has less impact on family outcomes because many people connect with institutions outside of the part of the city where they reside. Organizations like social service agencies, government agencies and faith communities find their clients and members in several ways: 1) personal connections, 2) targeted outreach to specific communities, and 3) referrals from other non-profits and government agencies. Once families find institutions that meet their needs, they refer their family and friends, creating links to particular organizations regardless of where they are located.
The report addresses two questions:
• How segregated are these two cities in terms of race/nationality, class, poverty, educational attainment and employment strategies?
• Is physical geography or social geography more important in determining economic outcomes?