Social class, network diversity and attachment to the society in Chile

Gabriel Otero, Beate Volker


In this study, we examine network segregation and diversity with regard to access to classes and occupations and their consequences for individuals' attachment and identification with society - including attitudes and behaviours of sense of belonging, social trust, the willingness to help others, as well as political engagement. We focus on Chile one of the most unequal countries in the world, with remarkable class divisions. Theoretically, we argue that higher levels of ingroup “bonding” social capital, that is homogenous networks, may produce strong inter-class polarisation, and reduce individuals’ dispositions towards broader identification with society. Conversely, relatively high out-class connections, or what has called “bridging” social capital, may expose individuals to more diverse class experiences and lead to a greater understanding of the society. Consequently, network heterogeneity could be conducive to promote individuals’ attachment to their society. In order to test our expectations, we use two waves of panel data from the Chilean Longitudinal Social Survey (ELSOC), collected in 2016 and 2018. To analyse the determinants of attachment to the society we fit fixed effect panel data models. Our results consistently show that an increase in the diversity of social networks in terms of accessed classes is associated with higher levels of attachment and identification with society, while homogeneity is linked to lower levels concerning all the dimensions analysed. In addition, we find that education, income, and participation in voluntary organizations also have an important role in the explanation of social cohesion. Our findings suggest that class divisions affect the way in which Chileans are integrated into society. We conclude by discussing the importance of reducing the spaces where social segregation is produced.

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