Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to show that numerous studies have advanced social capital
research over the past decade. Most studies have accepted the theoretical distinction between bonding
and bridging social capital networks. Many, however, tend to agglomerate empirical research under
the one catch-all social capital concept, rather than classifying it according to the bonding/bridging
distinction. Furthermore, most studies make little distinction on the basis of methodology, between
qualitative and quantitative approaches to investigating social capital. These omissions need to be
Design/methodology/approach – This paper reviews definitions and applications of bridging and
bonding social capital, classifies empirical studies according to each network type, and produces a
further breakdown according to methodological approach.
Findings – The result is a four-part “grid” of social capital research, encompassing bonding and
bridging, and quantitative and qualitative aspects. This paper finds that most qualitative research
examines non-excludable and excludable goods and is relevant to bonding social capital, whilst most
quantitative analysis looks at civic networks and norms of trust, and relates to bridging social capital.
Research limitations/implications – Results advance the task of clarifying and measuring social
Practical implications – Further development of the bridging/bonding social capital conceptual
pair should allow for a more precise measurement of a community, or region.
Originality/value – No review paper to date captures the above empirical and methodological “grid”