On the Determinants of Social Capital in Greece Compared to Countries of the European Union
Social capital refers to the stock of social relations, based on norms and networks of cooperation and trust that spill over to the market and state to enhance collective action between actors and achieve improved social efficiency and economic growth. The aim of the present paper is to discuss the implications of contemporary literature and empirical findings on social capital for the growth prospects of Greece, compared to the member-states of the European Union. In order to examine the potential of social capital to enhance growth, we must look into the factors that determine the nature and context of trust, norms and networks that have emerged in our multinational, multiethnic and multicultural Europe. The contribution of this paper is to offer insight on the determinants of social capital in Greece, compared to the European Union (EU – former 15 member-states). For this purpose, we regress an index of individual group membership, derived from the European Community Household Panel (ECHP), on a set of individual as well as aggregate factors of social capital. Regression results provide evidence of the impact of both individual and institutional characteristics on group membership. Differences on the extent of group membership between countries might be indicative of the historical and cultural differences that have affected the evolution of social capital across Europe. Particularly in Greece, the relatively low level of group membership compared to the other EU countries might provide further evidence of its low levels of civicness. Historically, its weak civil society has been a result of a prior civic tradition of clientelism under arbitrary rule, the interference of special-interest groups and the lack of credibility and impartiality from the part of the state. And these factors might be responsible for the slow pace in reform and growth observed compared to the rest of the EU. Nevertheless, the findings on the determinants of social capital may direct us to possible means of rebuilding patterns of participatory and cooperative behavior, especially in countries with low levels of trust and civicness, such as Greece.