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Social capital and quality of life in geographically diverse communities affected by rapid social and economic change

  • Year: 2003
  • Author: Healy, Karen; Ayres, Liz; Hampshire, Anne
  • Journal Name: 8th Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference
  • Publisher: Australian Institute of Family Studies
  • Published Location: Melbourne, Vic
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: New South Wales

Strong personal ties and community networks, key forms of social capital, are known to enhance individuals' access to emotional, social and economic resources. But what role do these intimate and neighbourly ties play in enabling individuals' and communities to overcome the deleterious effects of rapid social and economic change? How do these personal and local networks operate and do the functions of these networks differ across urban, regional and rural contexts? This paper explores these questions by reporting on the results of a detailed survey conducted with more than four hundred households in four communities in New South Wales. The communities were located in urban, urban fringe, rural and regional areas; each had been significantly affected by rapid social and economic change. Initial results of this study show differences across these communities in how local networks operate and the impact of personal and community ties on respondents' perceptions of their quality of life. Moreover, whilst personal and community ties are integral to some aspects of quality of life, this study found that they fail to address the social exclusion facing entire communities disadvantaged by social and economic change. At a time when there is significant attention being given to local family and community building initiatives, this paper draws attention to some of the limits of these initiatives for improving quality of life in disadvantaged communities. It highlights the importance of initiatives aimed at building intercommunity links and strengthening links between communities and the institutions of government, business and community services agencies. We discuss differences in how these change strategies might be pursued in urban, regional and rural locations.

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