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The concept of social capital, according to James Coleman (1990), "blurs distinctions" between types of social structures (p. 305). Most researchers who embrace Coleman's concept choose to preserve its broad content rather than sharpen its analytic bite. In order to further develop social capital as a theory capable of explanation, the analytic contribution of the concept of 'capital' must be clarified. Trust, norms, and networks are certainly social. But should these 'features of social organization' be considered capital? And if so, should they be considered the same type of capital?
In this paper, I impose some structure on the broad concept of social capital by driving a conceptual wedge between norms and networks and then elevating information to the same (secondary) status as norms. I then attempt to build a theory by invoking a distinction between social capital resources and capital goods. In the full paper, the basic argument is followed by (1) the presentation of a toy model that introduces some helpful notation and (2) an illustration of its application to Coleman's foundational example of the effects of social capital-covariation in the production of learning and social capital endowments across different types of schools (Coleman, 1995; Coleman, Hoffer 1987; Coleman, Hoffer, Kilgore 1982). In this summary, I only provide the basic argument and the supportive conclusions from the empirical analysis.
2. Social capital resources and capital goods
In economic theory, capital goods are reproducible factors of production that reduce the unit production costs of final goods. Financial capital resources, on the other hand, are not production-directed, although they can be converted into cash and used to buy capital goods or final goods on the open market. Financial capital resources are therefore a fungible class of assets that can be conceptually …