Background: Schools face pressure to promote equitable student outcomes as the achievement gap continues to persist. The authors examine different ways in which social capital has been conceptualized as well as prior theory and research on its formation and consequences. While some theoretical and empirical work conceptualizes social capital as a mechanism for prosocial outcomes, other scholars address it as an apparatus of social status.
Purpose: This study was conducted to advance knowledge about (1) the validity of measuring social capital as an organizational construct, (2) the equity of social capital distribution in schools, and (3) the relationship between school social capital and academic achievement.
Research Design: In this paper, the authors examine these possibilities using data collected from 96 Midwestern high schools. Confirmatory factor analysis, hierarchical linear modeling, and structural equation modeling were employed to depict the relationships among social capital, socioeconomic status, and academic achievement in schools.
Findings/Results: The authors found that variance in social capital was significantly related to school membership and that confirmatory factor analysis supported the construction of a school social capital measure. Moreover, more than half of the variance in social capital is unrelated to social class, and social capital is a positive predictor of academic achievement.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Because of its positive relation to achievement, investments in the development of social capital may be worthwhile. Interventions designed to develop social capital in schools should be guided by efforts to strengthen access to school-based resources in poor and low achieving schools.