Disentangling social capital – Understanding the effect of bonding and bridging on urban activity participation

Divyakant Tahlyan*, Amanda Stathopoulos, Michael Maness

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Social capital is a critical glue for economic and social development in urban areas. Yet, to effectively guide research and practice, there is a need for careful measurement of social capital and how it links to important aspects of urban system functions. This study is aimed at examining the multi-dimensional nature of social capital and the relationship between these dimensions and travel behavior. Prior research has shown connections between stand-alone social capital concepts, such as resources gathered via social networks, with specific aspects of travel behavior. In this work, we expand the definition of social capital to cover separate dimensions, modeled via multiple indicators. Specifically, we make use of over 1400 observations from the Pew Internet Networks and Community Survey dataset to build a Structural Equation Model dividing social capital into two latent dimensions: bonding and bridging to examine the relationship of both these dimensions with discretionary urban activity participation diversity and frequency. Moreover, broader measures of neighborhood and community engagement are included in the model to explain how such engagement can help with the accumulation of social capital. Our results indicate a positive but differential relationship between both social capital dimensions and activity participation. Further, the results also suggest an absence of correlation between bonding and bridging capital, strengthening the hypothesis that social capital is multi-dimensional. In terms of explaining the social capital accrual, we find that while community engagement is positively correlated to bridging capital, no evidence was found for a relationship between community engagement and bonding capital. Further, neighborhood engagement was not found to be associated with any of the social capital dimensions. This suggests that individuals predominantly rely on close-knit and stronger relationships for social/emotional support, while instead, community engagement significantly helps in the accumulation of bridging capital. The result from the study can be used by policy makers to improve transportation planning, management, and community well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100629
JournalTransportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Bonding capital
  • Bridging capital
  • Network capital
  • Structural equation modeling
  • Urban activity participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Environmental Science
  • Transportation
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Urban Studies
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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