Patterns of social capital, voluntary activity and area deprivation in England

Briefing Paper 113

November 2013

This study uses data from the 2005 and 2007 Citizenship Surveys to map broad differences in levels of volunteering and social capital between ninety different types of place in England, characterised by their regional location and level of deprivation. A measure of social capital in each type of place is constructed using a multivariate multilevel statistical model and the association with rates of volunteering is then examined.

The results show a positive association at the area level between the level of formal volunteering and informal volunteering and the level of social capital. The rate of both formal and informal volunteering was, however, unrelated to the level of social capital after controlling for area deprivation.

These results raise concerns about the ability of volunteering to change the social characteristics of deprived areas independently of their material circumstances. Communities have strengths primarily in areas concerned with maintaining social order rather than creating economic growth. Policies to tackle area deprivation need to concentrate on linking deprived areas up to economic opportunities in more affluent surrounding areas rather than on local strategies based on self-help.