Social Capital and the Academic Achievement of American students


Oyefuga, O.E. (2022). Social Capital and the Academic Achievement of American students. 2022 Add Health Users Conference. Chapel Hill, NC.


Using data from Waves I, II, and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) this study explores how the domains and types of social capital make a difference to educational outcomes in higher education. In recent years, especially after the publication in 2000 of Robert Putnam's book "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Society", there has been a heightened interest in the concept of social capital. Many scholars have made the connection between social capital and education by examining its effects on educational outcomes. However, a lot still needs to be understood. This study aims to provide a better understanding of the influence of social capital on the higher education academic achievement of American students nationally. The study examined the effect of social capital on the lives of children in the K-12 environment using college completion or degree attainment as the outcome variable. The independent variables included school and neighborhood social capital, as well as race/ethnicity, gender, children's agency, and socioeconomic status. The longitudinal design of Add Health data allows for extracting a large number of variables to represent the different domains of social capital. Variables that correlated appropriately with the networks, reciprocity, and trust inherent in social relationships were isolated to represent school and neighborhood social capital. Crossclassified multilevel models were used to analyze the data to determine which domains of social capital are the strongest contributor to college graduation. The models also examined if gender, racial identity, and children's agency influenced the relationship. This study, to my knowledge, is the first to use a multilevel model approach and longitudinal data to examine several contextual social capital factors simultaneously. Using a multilevel approach allows variables on different levels to be analyzed and the interaction between these levels to be observed (Hox & Maas, 2005) which provides a better way to understand some of the effects of society, which may take time to occur, in education. The findings of this study add to the existing theory of social capital and academic achievement in America and have the potential to inform the current education policy environment in the United States and globally.



Abstract from Add Health website

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2022 Add Health Users Conference


Oyefuga, O.E.

Year Published


City of Publication

Chapel Hill, NC



Reference ID