Quality of Life is Life in Community

Reflecting the Quality of Community in the Lives of Others Increases the Quality of Life of Us.  


Nashville is the “It” City.  It is the home of The Salvation Army since 1890 and The Salvation Army Social Justice and Research Center.  A small town exploding with energy, population growth, and housing costs has now experienced the highest rise in the cost of living in the country.[1]  The strength of Nashville continues to be the strength of a community.  Neighbors who wave along the roadway are welcoming those from around the country looking “home.”  A home is much more than housing, a home is a place of community.  Society is gaining understanding that our strength is found in our connections to each other.  An element of stable housing and community resilience is social capital.

Social capital (like human capital and even physical capital) is not a single, uni-dimensional variable. Rather, there are many forms of social capital, and different forms have different consequences.

  • bonding social capital (that is, links among people who are like one an- other) is important for “getting by,”
  • bridging social capital (that is, links among people who are unlike one another) is crucial for “getting ahead,”
  • linking social capital (that is, vertical links to people in positions of authority) plays a special role in development and poverty alleviation.

I love how God calls us into community. A faith community that challenges us to love because God loves us and not because others agree with us. We love because we know love from being loved and thus love is our only response. (1 Jn 4)

Nashville’s Red Shield Community has been loving people into and through community since 1940. Community is the response to God’s love. The Salvation Army came to Nashville in 1890. Fifty years later the Red Shield Community came to North Edgefield, what is today Nashville East.

Social capital is recognized as an individual and a collective property.   Here is the ideal-typical situation in which individuals discover and use social capital: a group of people becomes connected via a certain kind of relations, and regardless of the exact nature of their relations, the members find that something possessed or produced by the group either itself is a valuable asset or can help them acquire other desirable benefits.

Individual social capital is defined by three dimensions:

  • the (number of) connections in the individual social network
  • the resources these connections give access to
  • the availability of these resources from alters to the individual, of which the willingness of alters is a major component.

On this basis, we define an individual’s social capital here as:

The collection of resources owned by the members of an individual’s personal social network, which may become available to the individual as a result of the history of these relationships.

Quality of Life is found in connections, in networks that bring forth relationships that make the whole community stronger.  

Reflecting the Quality of Community in the Lives of Others
Increases the Quality of Life of Us.

Putnam, recognized in 2013 with a National Humanities Medal, further explains social capital:

  • social capital is the degree to which a given state is either high or low in the number of meetings citizens go to,
  • the level of social trust its citizens have,
  • the degree to which they spend time visiting one another at home,
  • the frequency with which they vote,
  • the frequency with which they do volunteering, and so on.

Practical individual and community relevance of social capital can be found in these three examples:

  • Education – a relationship between educational performance and social capital is much stronger, two orders of magnitude stronger than, for example again controlling for everything else spending on schools or teacher/pupil ratios or any of the obvious things that are more usually thought to increase educational performance.
  • Crime is strongly negatively predicted by social capital; this is true at the state level, but it is also true at the community and neighborhood levels. Once again the strongest predictor of the murder rate is a low level of social capital.
  • Happiness increases with both individual’s and their state’s measure of social capital. By contrast, an individual’s measure of happiness rises if his or her income is higher but falls if the average state income is higher.

Happiness increases when we are “US”.  This is the culture of The Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army invites and assists the marginalized with participating in the center of society, the center of the economy, and the center of the environment.

Practical Implications:

Social capital is a right and reasonable consideration in the resourcing of housing stability, food security, and general welfare programs.  Consideration of social capital should be integrated into the individual assessment.   There are scenarios where it is in the individual and community interest to resource individuals to reconcile with a community of their greater social capital.