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Can Weak Ties Create Social Capital? Evidence from Self-Help Groups in Rural India

  • Economics Discussion Papers
  • November 4, 2019
  • Ashwini Deshpande,
  • Ashwini Deshpande, Shantanu Khanna

The “strength of weak ties” has been established in the context of labour market outcomes, with theoretical and empirical investigation showing how weak ties lead to an increase in mobility and job opportunities. The impact of weak ties on community organisation is less well understood. We contribute to this literature by investigating if weak ties, generated via membership of livelihood programmes, can lead to the creation or enhancement of social capital. Based on data from one of the largest independent primary surveys for India, we find that participation in self-help groups had little impact on livelihoods, but led to the creation of significant social capital, as measured by indicators related to personal efficacy and collective action. The bulk of existing evidence on livelihood programmes is based on small samples. Our large sample size and innovative survey design allow us to detect a larger number of effects with greater certainty. We argue that the social capital generated by the programme is a significant positive impact (even though the main target of the programme is to strengthen livelihoods), as it strengthens the process of women’s empowerment.

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