Social Capital, Ideology, and Health in the United States


Herian, M. N., Tay, L., Hamm, J. A., & Diener, E. (2014). Social Capital, Ideology, and Health in the United States. Social Science & Medicine, 105, 30-37.


Research from across disciplines has demonstrated that social and political contextual factors at the national and subnational levels can impact the health and health behavior risks of individuals. This paper examines the impact of state-level social capital and ideology on individual-level health outcomes in the U.S. Leveraging the variation that exists across states in the U.S., the results reveal that individuals report better health in states with higher levels of governmental liberalism and in states with higher levels of social capital. Critically, however, the effect of social capital was moderated by liberalism such that social capital was a stronger predictor of health in states with low levels of liberalism. We interpret this finding to mean that social capital within a political unit—as indicated by measures of interpersonal trust—can serve as a substitute for the beneficial impacts that might result from an active governmental structure.

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