Social Capital Is The Key To Opportunity

Imagine two stories that both start with a problem. Jason’s friends were bad influences. His grades started to slip, and his parents noticed. They talked to some friends, who recommended a tutor, and they sent Jason there a couple times a week. As his grades started to improve, the parents signed Jason onto a local baseball team, and he found some new friends.

Still, Jason didn’t have amazing grades. When he graduated High School, his parents helped him enroll in college with a reference from his mom’s sorority sister. After he graduated from college, he heard about a job through a friend of the family. Now, Jason’s working a great job with good prospects.

Troy’s friends were also bad influences. When his grades started to slip, his parents noticed. But most of the boys in the neighborhood were going through the same thing. No one knew what to do. Mom and dad were both working two jobs, so they didn’t have the time or energy to push Troy. They found a local tutoring program for at-risk teens, and Troy’s grades started to improve.

With hard work, Troy made it into a local university where he earned a degree. After graduating, however, he had a hard time finding a job. He applied to everything he could find, but he got few responses. When he did get an interview, there were tons of other candidates. He couldn’t find anything. To make some money, he applied to the local Walgreens until he could find a job.

The Difference: Social Capital

What’s the difference between these two stories? You might think that it’s just income. It’s pretty obvious that Jason’s parents had the money and time to help him succeed while Troy’s parents had almost no time and less money. That, however, is not the real problem. The real problem is the difference in the social connections between Jason’s family and Troy’s.

Jason’s family lives in a neighborhood with a lot of successful people in important jobs. They have friends who have connections, and those connections helped Jason find a college and a job. Troy did not have those connections. His family only knew people with the same problems they had. Because Troy didn’t have the social capital that Jason had, Troy couldn’t find a job.

Social Capital Is The Key To Opportunity

In the article, What Is The Hidden Job Market?, Alison Doyle writes that people find most jobs, at least 60 percent, from social connections rather than from job listings. People who grow up in middle-income or high-income families have natural connections that can lead to good jobs, educational opportunities, and employment advancement.

Low-income families, however, don’t have those natural connections. Why don’t they find ways to build social capital? They’ve never been taught. At Social Capital Builders, we not only teach communities about the importance of social capital; we give them strategies to develop it.

The social capital gap plays an important role in rising income inequality. When 90 percent of youth live in neighborhoods like Troy’s, the majority of young people have little hope to improve their lives. They become disconnected from work and from education, and they lose hope for their futures.

The gap in social capital is one of the most important factors for lack of opportunity. Educational institutions teach skills and certify people for jobs, but that doesn’t mean you can get one.

To fight poverty, people without these skills, often low-income families, need to learn them. Social capital creates opportunities to succeed.

Lack of social capital leads to lack of opportunity that can continue the cycle of poverty.

Social Capital Builders teaches young people like Troy, and the programs that serve them, about the importance of social capital and we give them tools to build it. Our virtual training programs are the first step to training youth on the ever-important power of social capital building so they will never have to look for a job again.

For more information, contact or call 202-713-8393.

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