Social capital and crime: A cross-national multilevel study

Abstract

Numerous studies have repeatedly supported the negative influence of social capital upon crime rates. Although the relationship between social capital and crime is theoretically persuasive and empirically robust, only a handful of studies have looked into its cross-national variation. Furthermore, no research in social capital has yet applied a multilevel approach to take into account both macro- and micro-level determinants of crime. In an attempt to fill in this research gap, we conducted multilevel analyses of country-level and individual-level factors of criminal victimization. Following the lead of previous studies, it was hypothesized that social capital—estimated as generalized trust, social norms, and civic engagement—reduces criminal victimization, net of individual-level determinants, and other well-established country-level factors. The results revealed that while a higher level of social capital was found to reduce the likelihood of robbery victimization, no significant impact was observed on burglary victimization. With regard to the three dimensions of social capital, generalized trust and social norms exerted significant effects on robbery victimization in the expected direction.