Social Capital in the Netherlands and beyond

Prof. Dr. Hans Schmeets, Statistics Netherlands and Maastricht University

In the Netherlands, topics related to social cohesion, such as various aspects of participation and trust, are prominently on the political agenda. The bottom line is a widespread feeling that social cohesion in Dutch society is eroding, which is also reflected in a perception of a change from a high trust into a low trust society. Based on large-scale surveys (e.g. Labour Force Surveys, Permanent Survey on Living Conditions, Dutch Parliamentary Election Studies, European Social Survey) and (population) registers, the development is investigated of: (a) Social contacts, informal help and volunteering; (b) Political participation (turnout and participation in political actions); (c) Social, institutional and political trust. Overall, we found no empirical evidence for a decline in participation and trust levels. In addition, together with the Scandinavian countries, The Netherlands is on top in many aspects of social capital. However, there are large gaps between prevailing groups in Dutch society, in particular between lower and higher educated, natives and ethnic minorities, and various religious groups. Such gaps are rather stable for participation (since 1997) and trust (since 2002). In addition, participation and trust are slightly to moderately correlated on the micro-level and an accumulation of participation results in higher trust rates. At a regional level, results are presented for the 443 municipalities. Clear regional patterns emerge in participation and trust levels. Especially, rather high positive correlations are found between voter turnout, volunteering, people not depending on social benefits, and religious involvement.

About the speaker
Hans Schmeets holds PhD in Management Sciences (Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, 1984). Currently, he is a Professor in Social Statistics at Maastricht University, Professor and program manager at Statistics Netherlands (SN). Hans Schmeets has worked for Statistics Netherlands (SN) of over 20 years. He has been involved in numerous projects, resulting in publications in the field of social cohesion, elections and political participation, volunteering work, ethnic minorities, religion, trust, values, living conditions and survey methodology, including measures to increase response rates and to reduce nonresponse bias. He is responsible for the statistical research and the dissemination of statistical information on a wide range of topics related to the research programmes social cohesion, wellbeing, and attitudes within the department of Statistical Analysis of the Division Social, Economic and Spatial Statistics. Since April 2008 he is a part-time professor at Maastricht University, in the department of Political Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. In this capacity he collaborates with colleagues of the Faculties of Humanities and Science (including Maastricht Graduate School of Governance) and Law in the empirical study of social cohesion. The aim of this interdisciplinary chair is that Maastricht University will develop a reputation in empirical quantitative research for the use of large scale databases, mainly submitted by Statistics Netherlands. He aims to strengthen the collaboration with other universities and expertise centres, such as the Scientific Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) and the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP). Moreover, as statistical and election analyst in the core-team of Election Observation Missions (EOM), he has participated in over 60 EOMs for international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Hans Schmeets is a member of the board of the Foundation Election Studies in the Netherlands (SKON) and coordinated the Dutch Parliamentary Election Studies in 1989, 1994, 2006, 2010.

Venue: Conference Room

Date: 18 October 2012

Time: 12:30 - 13:30  CET