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Social capital, friendship networks, and youth unemployment

  • Martin Hällsten
  • Christofer Edling
  • Jens Rydgren
Publishing year: 2016-06-11
Language: English
Pages: 234-250
Publication/Series: Social Science Research
Volume: 61
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

Youth unemployment is a contemporary social problem in many societies. Youths often have limited access to information about jobs and limited social influence, yet little is known about the relationship between social capital and unemployment risk among youth. We study the effect of social capital on unemployment risk in a sample of 19 year olds of Swedish, Iranian, and Yugoslavian origin living in Sweden (N = 1590). We distinguish between two dimensions of social capital: occupational contact networks and friendship networks. First, ego’s unemployment is found to be strongly associated with friends’ unemployment among individuals of Yugoslavian origins and individuals of Swedish origin, but not Iranian origin. Second, occupational contact networks reduce unemployment risks for all groups, but especially so for Iranians. The effect sizes of the two dimensions are similar and substantial: going from low to high values on these measures is associated with a difference of some 60–70 percent relative difference in unemployment risk. The findings are robust to a number of different model specifications, including a rich set of social origin controls, personality traits, educational performance, friends’ characteristics, and friendship network characteristics, as well as controls for geographical employment patterns. A sensitivity simulation shows that homogeneity bias need to be very strong to explain away the effect.


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • Youth unemployment
  • Social networks
  • Social capital
  • Ethnic inequality


  • ISSN: 0049-089X
Christofer Edling
E-mail: christofer [dot] edling [at] soc [dot] lu [dot] se


Faculty of Social Sciences

+46 46 222 88 62



Centre for Economic Demography




+46 46 222 88 62




I earned my PhD from Stockholm University in 1999. Between 2002 and 2005 I was Torgny Segerstedt Pro Futura Fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study at Uppsala University. I received my Docent-title in 2003, and was appointed Associate Professor at Stockholm University in 2004. From 2006 to 2008 I was Head of the Department of Sociology at Stockholm university. Before coming to Lund in 2012 I served as Full Professor of Sociology at Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany. I have been a fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2004/05) and Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (2013).

Department of Sociology
Lund University
Visiting address: Sandgatan 11, House G, Lund
Postal address: Box 114 , SE-221 00 LUND, SWEDEN
Telephone: Student Office +46 46-222 88 44, Lund University Switchboard +46 46-222 00 00

Faculty of Social Sciences