Date of Graduation

8-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural Economics (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness

Advisor

Eric Wailes

Committee Member

Joost Dessein

Second Committee Member

Daniel Rainey

Keywords

Case study based approach, Qualitative, Social capital in Arkansas

Abstract

Despite the vast research on social capital in general, only very little research is focused on the quality of social capital. While some research studies incorporated aspects that are associated with the quality of social capital, they often take a one dimensional approach that fails to take the different aspects of the topic into consideration. In order to gain more insights into this I conducted a series of semi-structured interviews in three rural counties in Arkansas. The counties were selected on the basis of a social capital index of all U.S. counties using quantitative measures. I used a guide on qualitative research on social capital as my conceptual framework to analyze the interviews. The analysis, which utilized NVivo, a qualitative data management program, yielded a variety of results. I was able to observe that the involvement in a large number of groups tended to prevent participants from becoming involved on a deeper level. However, often the same people were involved in the majority of groups and many of the groups struggled to recruit new members. In addition, ethnic differences were not perceived to be a hampering factor in building intense social capital by the participants. Among other things the results also showed that there are noteworthy differences in the quality of social capital between the three counties. The results indicate that there seems to be a correlation between the level of local social capital when measured via qualitative or quantitative indicators. A factor that should be explored further in future research.This study supplements the growing body of literature on social capital. In exploring the largely untapped aspect of social capital quality new insights are gained. The results can be used to improve existing measures of social capital and to develop more efficient policies, particularly for rural areas in Arkansas.

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