Living together today, participating together tomorrow?-The impact of student dormitories on the development of social capital and political participation among students

University essay from Lunds universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: Social capital and political participation are created by deliberations. Often these deliberations occur within one’s housing context. Therefore, this thesis investigates how different housing contexts impact upon an individual's political participation. By examining thoroughly this under researched topic and by applying a new methodological approach a scientific contribution is made. Moreover, the study is meaningful for the “real” world as it helps to understand and to enhance political participation. The theory of social capital is used as the theoretical framework of this paper. Two group of students, students living in student dormitories and students living in other housing forms, e.g. with their family or in a flat share, present the cases of the study. Students in student dormitories differ from other students in factors which influence deliberations. The interaction frequency, the level of expertise and the respective network size are considered as such factors in this thesis. Therefore, students in student dormitories are expected to show generally, and more specifically along the dimension of bridging social capital a higher political participation than other students. Also, it is assumed that this effect stays relevant over time. Relying on the longitudinal dataset of the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) Berlin, this thesis tests these claims quantitatively. At first, differences and commonalities in characteristics and motivations of the students for their housing form are pointed out with the help of descriptive statistics, e.g. cross-tabulations and t-tests. Afterwards a multiple regression analysis compares both student groups over time regarding their political participation. The thesis finds that students in student dormitories show in generally a higher political participation and that this effect is lasting. Yet, their political participation is not particularly more pronounced along the bridging social capital dimension. These results are important by their meaning for democracy and for the future of European integration.

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