Lois Takahashi, Urban and Regional Planning PhD from USC, is Professor of Urban Planning and Asian American Studies, and Director, University of California Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Policy Multicampus Research Program (MRP). She researches social service delivery, HIV prevention, and homelessness in the U.S., as well as environmental governance issues in Southeast Asian cities. She’s now looking into the dynamics of social capital, particularly as it relates to health in impoverished and marginalized communities. Michelle Magalong is a doctoral candidate of urban planning at UCLA. She studies how cultural preservation is used towards community building, community development, and place making in Asian American communities.
Takahashi and Magalong write the current social capital model is “blind to political economic conditions, and relations of gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual identity” (1), and propose a problematization of the topic. Disrupted social capital refers to the “instabilities and disruptions” (ibid) in access to resources vulnerable individuals often suffer. Disruptive social capital refers to the deleterious effects of membership in robust, if health- and self-destructive social networks. As “marginalized, stigmatized, and excluded populations” (ibid) are assured unpredictability in resource access and availability, their health conditions might even worsen.
In general, the idea behind social capital is that trust and reciprocity encourage cooperative behavior/communal action/associational life, which tender material and emotional resources, followed by an improved quality of life. But public health research contends that poverty and social inequality matter more to one’s health than social capital. Still, social capital is the “adaptive advantage” for young immigrants’ upward mobility. As such, whatever framework is developed, it “must account for structural and institutional inequality, not just individual and community action” (4) and emphasize the dynamism inherent in interpersonal relationships.
The four interrelated elements of disruptive social capital in the lives of the marginalized:
(1) scarce resources and social disadvantage increase dependence on social capital-conveyed resources; (2) that social capital is “rife with instability and turbulence” (5); (3) loss of social capital leads to searches for new social networks and sites; and (4) discovery of social capital does lead to new health conditions and situations, but they might be a lateral or negative move. There is “disrupted social capital (where resources are interrupted) and disruptive social capital (where resources and social relationships result in change, sometimes health promoting or denigrating)” (6, emphasis mine).
- Social capital has positive and negative dimensions.
- As social networks are disrupted, individuals/groups become marginalized and socially disadvantaged, so they seek welcoming networks that provide support but put them at further health risk.
- To get healthier, individuals will relocated from “negative” health spaces to healthier ones. However, these places often come without the emotionally supportive social capital.