Social Capital Report

Key Takeaways

  • Families engage in informal exchanges within their communities, and often give help more than they receive it. On average over families report social capital summing to an estimated $4,000 worth of activity and support over two years, raising average monthly incomes by about 7%.
  • Families receive twice as much help and support from their communities than from government subsidies. Households often report receiving more than twice as much help from their community, in the form of social capital, than from subsidies.
  • Household social capital generally increases over time. On average the frequency of social capital exchanges nearly doubles over two years. This may be driven by increased connection with others, or by increased activity by the family, or may be a more accurate reflection of community exchanges that were already occurring.
  • Low-income families are effective at placing others in jobs. About half of families responding to an employment survey reported finding their jobs through friends or family.
  • Households with high levels of social capital are also showing strong progress on their goals. Families with more social capital tend to set more goals, complete more of their goals, and do so faster compared to other households.


The monthly journals families submit to FII cover a wide range of data points, including social capital exchanges like watching one anther’s children, cooking for each other, etc. While these exchanges are not monetized, they have real economic value. We estimate that value by not only asking FII members to catalog the social capital they have given and received over the course of the month, but what the dollar value of those exchanges would be had they been monetized.

In several sections of this report, we look at the subset of families that have been with FII for two years. These households have completed their two year commitment with FII. Two years of journals gives us enough data to get a more complete picture of a family over time, and we generally limit our analysis of outcomes and comparison to this group.

Social Capital as Income

We can think about these social capital exchanges as a part of a household’s income.

  • Factoring in social capital exchanges, we see that total income is supplemented by an estimated $145 of social capital per month after two years, raising effective monthly incomes by about 7% on average.
  • In comparison, families report an average of $67 in government subsidies, less than half of the value of the support they receive from their community.

The chart below shows the impact of social capital received on households’ effective income over two years with FII.

Giving and Receiving Support

Overall, we find our family partners are generally giving support and assistance to others in their community more than they receive support.

Social Capital Over Time

In general, we see reported social capital increase over the two years families partner with FII. The charts below show the average frequency of social capital – the average number of exchanges per month – and the estimated dollar value of these exchanges in each month, over families’ months of journaling.

Social capital may increase as our family partners build connections with others in their community. It may be that as families progress on their goals they have more to share or have more to ask of their networks. This may partly be a change in reported social capital. As our partners become accustomed to the journaling process and to tracking their progress, they may be reporting exchanges that were already happening naturally between households, but that went unreported previously.

Help Finding a Job

As part of a recently launched two year longitudinal study on work situations, we’ve asked a subset of FII families some additional questions about their employment and businesses. One question asked survey takers how they found their most recent job and nearly half said through a friend or family member. Very few reported using an agency or other sort of service, with the vast majority of other responses representing individuals finding jobs through their own initiative.

High Levels of Social Capital

Looking at two year families and their patterns of social capital connections, we used households that average more than two exchanges per month as a measure of frequency social capital utilization. We estimate about 16% of two year families are in this group.


We find that these high social capital households tend to set more goals, and complete more of their goals. We also find that on average they complete their goals somewhat faster than other households.

The chart below shows the distribution of the these goals metrics across households in the high social capital group and in other households. The tops and bottoms of the green boxes indicate the lower and upper quartiles of the distributions, and the line in the middle indicates the median value. The notches represent a confidence interval around the ‘true’ median. If we compare the median line and the notches between the two groups, we can estimate the differences in goal setting and completion between these groups.

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