To measure social capital means to attempt to quantify the stock of social capital in a given context. Unfortunately, there is considerable debate and controversy over the possibility, desirability, and practicability of measuring social capital. The measurement of social capital is closely linked to its definition and conceptualisation – both of which are contested in the literature.
The most common way to measure social capital is to gather information about each dimension: structural, cognitive and relational. This has been done using either quantitative or qualitative methods, by survey questions or by interviews, or both.
Social capital cannot be measured directly but can be inferred from its powerful effects. Since we cannot measure social capital directly we measure it by using indicators or “proxies” that are theoretically linked to social capital. Unfortunately, the choice of indicators and the method of data collection has often resulted in questionable validity. In the past authors have taken a single or small set of indicators to represent social capital. For example, some authors have positioned social capital as trust, or as trust and membership in voluntary associations.
For more information see:
A guide for the measurement of social capital at any level in any context.