At the Foundation, we believe that social connection is a powerful, proven driver of health and a key principle of health equity. The Social Capital Brief by the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service summarizes trends in social connectedness in Central Texas over time through the Austin Area Sustainability Indicators Survey. The results of the 2020 survey build upon research that indicates a strong link between social capital and health, including the 2018 Report by the RGK Center. Learn more about this series of briefs here.
Understanding social connection and social capital in our community is important to the Foundation’s mission of advancing health equity. We know that social connection is one of the most influential protective factors a community can offer its members. Feeling connected helps people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugar, improve cancer survival, decrease cardiovascular mortality, and improve overall mental health. The disparities within the domains of social capital shown in this study has implications for the well-being of our neighbors and the goal of achieving health equity in our region.
From the 2018 Report, we know that: 1. There is a strong correlation between social capital and health, including general health, availability, access to care, and mental health, and 2. In Central Texas, Black, Hispanic, and low-income groups have significantly less social capital when compared to the overall population; these disparities reflect historical inequities rooted in systemic racism.
This 2020 brief highlights how the social capital of Austin Area residents has changed since 2018, however disparities between racial and social groups remain. Overall, these findings suggest that Social Capital has increased since 2018. However, the changes in each of the three domains of social capital, trust, neighborhood cohesion, and bonding networks were not equal among residents:
- Across all race/ethnicity categories there was a reported decline in neighborhood cohesion, Hispanic respondents saw the greatest decline, -6.6%, and Black respondents had the least, -1.2%.
- While levels of trust declined for both White (about -4%) and Hispanic groups (about -10%), Black respondents reported 5% higher levels of trust in their neighbors than in 2018.
- Bonding networks increased for all race/ethnicity and household income categories. The greatest increases were observed for Hispanic residents (32%) and for low-income families, those with an income of less than $35K (31%).
 The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness Am. Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2017