Is Linking Social Capital More Beneficial to the Health Promotion of the Poor? Evidence from China


As a more recently developed dimension of social capital, linking social capital seems to be less frequently discussed in the field of public health. Following the classic definition of linking social capital proposed by Szreter and Woolcock (Int J Epidemiol 33(4):650–667, 2004), this study defined linking social capital from the perspective of political capital. Political trust, political efficacy, political participation and membership in the Chinese Communist Party were used to measure linking social capital. Based on the data from Chinese General Social Survey of 2010 (N = 3209), this study used extended regression model to address potential endogenous problems of linking social capital and estimate its disparities in health return by the level of family income. Results show that only certain associations between linking social capital and psychological health were observed without endogenous problems addressed, and no significant family income disparity in these associations was observed. However, with endogenous problems addressed, it was observed that linking social capital was more beneficial to the health promotion, including both physical and psychological health, of the poor. These results are intrinsically in line with the classic definition of linking social capital, and they also indirectly support the applicability of this classic definition in unique Chinese settings.

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  1. 1.

    As the half of the average household income in 2010 was about 23,000 CNY/year, individuals with total family incomes of less than 23,000 CNY/year were treated as the poor. Since (46,309.93 − 23,155 = 23,155 ≈ 23,000) CNY/year was treated as the floor of middle family income, (46,309.93 + 23,155 = 69,465 ≈ 69,000) CNY/year was considered as the ceiling of middle family income. Thus, individuals with total family incomes of 23,000–68,999 CNY/year were classified as the middle-income group, and individuals with total family incomes of no less than 69,000 CNY/year were considered as the rich.

  2. 2.

    Sense of income fairness was used as the IV of political trust and political efficacy, collective action at the individual and province levels were used as IVs of political participation, and father’s political status was used as the IV of membership in CCP. Usually, higher levels of political trust and efficacy are closely related to confidence in the government. Therefore, individuals with higher levels of political trust and efficacy usually agree that the government is trustworthy, so they are commonly satisfied with the income distribution system designed by the government. However, sense of income fairness is usually not associated with health outcomes. Second, “whether there is collective action around you” is a strong predictor of political activities and the management level in one place, so it is highly related to individuals’ political participation, and it is exogenous and not determined by individuals, it only influences individuals’ health through their participation. Further, father’s political status is a strong predictor of the political status of children, and it is not directly related to children’ health. In most instances, although these IVs were valid, they were not always perfect. For example, membership in CCP was not endogenous when father’s political status was used to examine the association between membership in CCP and psychological health (when father’s political status was used as the IV). Even so, evidence shows that even a flawed IV is still meaningful and can yield significant supplements (Morgan 2002).


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The funding was provided by Wuhan University Population and Health Young Academic Team (Grant No. Whu2016026).

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Correspondence to Peigang Wang.

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Appendix 1

See Table 8.

Table 8 Rotated component matrix of linking social capital

Appendix 2

See Table 9.

Table 9 Rotated component matrix of two health outcomes

Appendix 3

See Tables 10, 11, 12 and 13.

Table 10 Hausman test for endogeneity of political trust
Table 11 Hausman test for endogeneity of political efficacy
Table 12 Hausman test for endogeneity of political participation
Table 13 Hausman test for endogeneity of CCP membership

Appendix 4

See Table 14.

Table 14 Weak IV test for IVs used

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Jiang, J., Wang, P. Is Linking Social Capital More Beneficial to the Health Promotion of the Poor? Evidence from China. Soc Indic Res 147, 45–71 (2020).

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  • Linking social capital
  • Income inequality
  • Health inequality
  • Extended regression model