Direction des statistiques et des données

The OECD measurement of social capital project and question databank


Project overview

The OECD Statistics Directorate has undertaken a project to review the Measurement of Social Capital. The aim of this project, which was funded by the European Commission (DGEMPL), has been three-fold: i) to assess how the notion of “social capital” has been conceptualised in the research literature; ii) to detail how it has been measured in national and international surveys; and iii) to identify priority areas for statistical development. The main outputs of the project are a report, which has been published as an OECD Working Paper, and a question ‘databank’, which are both available below.


The final report of the project identifies four main ways in which the concept of “social capital” can be conceptualised and measured:

  • Personal relationships, refering to the structure of people’s networks (i.e. the people they know) and the social behaviours that contribute to establishing and maintaining those networks, such as spending time with others, or exchanging news by telephone or email.
  • Social network support, which is a direct outcome of the nature of people’s personal relationships, and refers to the resources – emotional, material, practical, financial, intellectual or professional - that are available to each individual through their personal social networks.
  • Civic engagement, which comprises the activities and networks through which people contribute to civic and community life, such as volunteering, political participation, group membership and different forms of community action.
  • Finally, trust and cooperative norms,refering to the trust, social norms and shared values that underpin societal functioning and enable mutually beneficial cooperation. The concept primarily refers to different kinds of trust, as well as norms of reciprocity and non-discrimination. The types of trust that are most often considered as forms of social capital are generalised trust (i.e. trust in ‘others’, including strangers) and institutional trust, which can refer to political institutions as well as the judiciary, police, the media or other institutions.

The question ‘databank’

In addition to an extensive review of the literature, the background work for this paper has included the compilation of a ‘databank’ of relevant questions from surveys around the world pertaining to social capital. Surveys were identified through desktop research and through enquiries to national statistical offices in OECD member countries. It is likely that there are many more surveys that have not as yet been incorporated into the databank, and yet, while not exhaustive, it represents a very wide range of official and non-official data sources. The databank currently consists of around 1300 questions from over 50 surveys and survey modules. It is intended as a tool for statisticians and researchers interested in the measurement of different aspects of social capital.


Download the databank (XLS)


Download the User guide (PDF)


Download the OECD Working Paper: Four interpretations of social capital: an agenda for measurement (PDF)



For any questions or suggestions related to the database or the OECD Statistics Directorate’s work on Social Capital, please contact Katherine Scrivens (


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