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Bonding, Bridging and Linking: How Social Capital Operated in New Orleans Following Hurricane Katrina

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Abstract

In the past decade, social capital has been explored internationally in the disaster and social work literature, particularly in terms of historical oppression and limited economic resources of disadvantaged communities. Social capital in the United States, however, has had less integration. Using a qualitative grounded theory approach, we examine the different types of social capital (bonding, bridging, and linking) through a social work lens. We examine how social capital operated in the lives of 40 families following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana. We attempt to understand how residents utilized their social capital to survive the storm, relocate, and rebuild their lives and com-munities. Results indicate residents, especially those with low incomes, relied on, built upon, and collapsed all levels of social capital for individual, family, and community sur-vival. Participants described a process through which close ties (bonding) were impor-tant for immediate support, but bridging and linking social capital offered pathways to longer term survival and wider neighborhood and community revitalization. This paper also discusses how social capital inclusion in social work can strengthen or hinder individual and community development following a catastrophic event.
Bonding, Bridging and Linking: How
Social Capital Operated in New Orleans
following Hurricane Katrina
Robert L. Hawkins and Katherine Maurer
Robert L. Hawkins is the McSilver Assistant Professor in Poverty Studies at the Silver School of
Social Work at New York University. He is also the Director of the McSilver Institute on Poverty,
Policy, & Practice at the Silver School. Katherine Maurer is a doctoral student at the Silver
School of Social Work at New York University and a Junior Research Scientist at the
McSilver Institute.
Correspondence to Robert Hawkins, Silver School of Social Work, New York University,
1 Washington Square North, New York, NY 10003, USA. E-mail: Robert.hawkins@nyu.edu
Abstract
In the past decade, social capital has been explored internationally in the disaster and
social work literature, particularly in terms of historical oppression and limited economic
resources of disadvantaged communities. Social capital in the United States, however,
has had less integration. Using a qualitative grounded theory approach, we examine
the different types of social capital (bonding, bridging, and linking) through a social
work lens. We examine how social capital operated in the lives of 40 families following
Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana. We attempt to understand how residents
utilized their social capital to survive the storm, relocate, and rebuild their lives and com-
munities. Results indicate residents, especially those with low incomes, relied on, built
upon, and collapsed all levels of social capital for individual, family, and community sur-
vival. Participants described a process through which close ties (bonding) were impor-
tant for immediate support, but bridging and linking social capital offered pathways
to longer term survival and wider neighborhood and community revitalization. This
paper also discusses how social capital inclusion in social work can strengthen or
hinder individual and community development following a catastrophic event.
Keywords: Social capital, Hurricane Katrina, disasters
Introduction
Much has been written regarding the social conditions that contributed to
the magnitude of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the US Gulf
# The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of
The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.
British Journal of Social Work (2010) 40, 1777–1793
doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcp087
Advance Access publication August 3, 2009
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Coast in August 2005. In the literature, Hurricane Katrina is often cate-
gorised as a non-natural disaster—one in which social factors contributed
to increased vulnerability and inhibited recovery due to lack of socio-
political and economic resources (Cutter et al., 2003; Brinkley, 2006;
Hartman and Squires, 2006; Park and Miller, 2006). The social and physical
destruction of New Orleans further intensified the impact of the disaster for
the most economically vulnerable (Brinkley, 2006; Hartman and Squires,
2006; Park and Miller, 2006; Iversen and Armstrong, 2008; Moyo and
Moldovan, 2008).
While social capital has been studied in the context of disasters (i.e. the
2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, regional flooding in Canada and the UK),
Hurricane Katrina provides an opportunity to analyse the impact of a dis-
aster on a vulnerable community in the USA from a social work perspective
(Cutter et al., 2003; Yanay and Benjamin, 2005; Beaudouin, 2007; Moyo and
Moldovan, 2008; Rowlands and Tan, 2008). The significance of the social
conditions calls for a better understanding of how vulnerable populations
used the resources available to them to survive the devastation and disrup-
tion of Hurricane Katrina and to rebuild lives, communities and a city.
In this paper, we examine families following Hurricane Katrina through a
social capital lens. Using a qualitative grounded theory approach, we look at
the different types of social capital present in New Orleans (bonding, brid-
ging and linking) juxtaposed against the experiences of racially and econ-
omically diverse families. In this manner, we attempt to understand how
residents utilised their social capital to survive the storm, relocate and
rebuild. Our goal for this examination is to increase social workers’ under-
standing of the nature of social capital and how it can strengthen or hinder
individual and community development following a catastrophic event.
Background
Social capital has gained intellectual currency as a means to understand the
relative strength of families and communities. The concept has been
applied in disciplines ranging from sociology to economics, psychology
and public health (Lin, 2001; Pooley et al., 2004; Roberts, 2004). In the
USA, Coleman’s (1988, 1990) conceptualisation of social capital as
co-operative relationships within families and commu nities and Putnam’s
(2000) work on civic engagement, trust and norms of reciprocity have domi-
nated discussion. In our examination of social capital, Coleman’s conceptu-
alisation has the most utility for social workers. Coleman explains social
capital as direct and indirect resources that are a by-produ ct of social net-
works and social support systems amongst family, friends or community
members.
In the past decade, social capital has been explored in the disaster
research literature, particularly in terms of historical oppression and
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limited economic resources of disadvantaged communities such as those
affected by Hurricane Katrina in the USA and the 2004 Indian Ocean
Tsunami (Barnshaw and Trainor, 2007; Mathbor, 2007; Iversen and
Armstrong, 2008; Norris et al., 2008). Though there has been sparse use
of the concept in social work literature in the USA, many agree that
social work education, research and practice would benefit from the
inclusion of the multidimensional framework of social capital to enhance
the understanding of social relationships (Loeffler et al., 2004; Mathbor,
2007; Ersing and Loeffler, 2008).
There are many examples of the incorporation of social capital in social
policy. In Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, investment in and
promotion of social capital within communities has been strongly linked to
political agendas, influenced by Giddens’ (2001) ‘third way’ (Schuller et al.,
2000; Farrell, 2007). In the UK, social capital policies have addressed social
deprivation and exclusion from a community development perspective
(Leonard, 2004; Farrell, 2007; Popple, 2006). Further, the concept has
been promoted as essential for sustainability and poverty reduction in inter-
national policy (World Bank, 2009).
The concept has been little applied to eradicati ng social inequality beyond
isolated local programmes in the USA (DeFilippis, 2001). The approach to
social capital in the USA reinforces a dynamic in which structural barriers of
race, class and gender are reduced to individual characteristics rather than
impediments that whole groups and communities experience (DeFilippis,
2001; Hero, 2003). As research has shown in race/ethnicity and socially
deprived segregated communities such as West Belfast, Northern Ireland
(Leonard, 2004), social capital can be a useful concept to understand
the different values of network relationships for specific communities in a
socio-political context (Lynn, 2006; Farre ll, 2007).
Further debate exists over whether social capital is an individual or solely
a community concept (Kawachi, 1999; Lochner et al., 1999; Carpiano, 2005)
or a function of both (Coleman, 1990; Portes, 1998, 2000). It is our position
that it is in the focus on the actions of individuals in relation to structural
forces (their community) that the framework of social capital finds its great-
est usefulness in social work. We concur with Schuller et al. (2000) that the
concept is unique in its ability to bridge the theoretical gap between individ-
ual and community that spans from the micro to the macro in an interactive
and independent manner more effectively than many previous socio-
economic/-political theories.
Researchers have made further distinctions about the quality and kinds of
social capital that exist. Gitell and Vidal (1998) and Szreter and Woolcock
(2004) differentiate three types of social capital: bonding, bridging and
linking. Bonding social capital refers to relationships amongst members of
a network who are similar in some form (Putnam, 2000
). Bridgin
g social
capital refers to relationships amongst people who are dissimilar in a demon-
strable fashion, such as age, socio-economic status, race/ethnicity and
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education (Szreter and Woolcock, 2004). Linking social capital is the extent
to which individuals build relationships with institutions and individuals who
have relative power over them (e.g. to provide access to services, jobs or
resources) (Woolcock, 2001; Szreter and Woolcock, 2004).
Lin (2001) further delineates interactions as heterophilous (amongst
actors who are dissimilar) or homophilous (amongst actors who are
similar). Typically, homophilous bonding represents the strongest connec-
tion with the least valuable by-product. Heterophilous bridging social
capital is generated from a weaker connection but produces a more valuable
by-product than bonding interactions (Lin, 2001; McPherson et al., 2001).
Linking social capital is the result of the weakest relationship but the most
valuable outcome, as linking provides access and connection to power struc-
tures and institutions. Unlike bonding, it is bridging and linking that are
characterised by exposure to and development of new ideas, values and
perspectives (Woolcock, 2001; Szreter and Woolcock, 2004).
Another important debate in the literature disputes whether social
capital is a wholly positive asset, positing that there are negative ele ments
that should also be characterised as social ‘capital’ (Putnam, 2000 ;
Hero, 2003). Earlier studies found that social capital resulting from
support of a social network can be important to surviving personal,
emotional and economic hardships (Edin and Lein, 1997; Bassuk et al.,
2002; Hawkins and Abrams, 2007). Others found negative and counter pro-
ductive sides to social capital; it can be time-consuming, hurtful to mental
health function or impede acquiring or retaining employment (Caughy
et al., 2003; Beaudouin, 2007).
Homogeneous communities exhibit more bonding social capital but
less bridging and linking social capital at societal and institutional levels
(Lin, 2001; Costa and Kahn, 2003). In the responses to Hurricane
Katrina, this tension is well documented (Dyson, 2006; Bullard and
Wright, 2007). Numerous media reports and research studies detailed
examples of homophilous bonding social capital in which individuals
helped their neighbours and community during and following the storm
(Hartman and Squires, 2006; Rodriguez et al., 2006; Beaudouin, 2007).
These reactions are common in the disaster literature worldwide. Dynes
(2006) reported data on disasters showing that social relationships posi-
tively impact survival rates. In a 1980 Italian earthquake, for example,
individuals living alone were 2.4 times more likely to die waiting for
outside rescuers than those who lived with at least one other person.
Conversely, the breakdown of heterophilous disaster response,
especially at the national level, is also well documented (Brinkley, 2006;
Dyson, 2006; Dynes, 2006; Bullard and Wright, 2007). Examples include a
lack of pre-hurricane disaster preparedness, no Red Cross-sanctioned
shelters within New Orleans, no drivers for evacuation buses and
neglected levees, all of which contributed to the magnitude of the disaster
(Brinkley, 2006).
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The challenge of building heterophilous bridging and linking social
capital is amplified when the homophilous community is economically
and racially segregated (Leonard, 2004; Beaudouin, 2007; Mathbor,
2007). Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the population of urban Ne w
Orleans was 68 per cent African American, with a poverty rate
almost twice the national average, at 23 per cent (US Census Bureau,
2006). As we have seen internationally, communities that are historically
socially and economically vulnerable are at greater risk of damage from
weather-generated disasters and slow recovery efforts due to the lack
of financial capital and political power (Hawkins, in press; Dynes,
2006; Brinkley, 2006; Park and Miller, 2006; Mathbor, 2007; Rowlands
and Tan, 2008).
Current study
In this paper, we examine the different types of social capital availa ble fol-
lowing Hurricane Katrina by looking at the assistance that New Orleans
residents either received or provided. We explore how residents from
different economic and racial backgrounds made use of the social capital
available to them. We further examine the bonding, bridging and linking
social capital that existed prior to and was made available during Hurricane
Katrina, as well as that which was transported in the evacuation. We see
how social capital benefited and hindered planning, evacuation, as well as
returning and rebuilding in New Orleans.
Methods
This is a qualitative, longitudinal, grounded theory study using ethno-
graphic elements (Creswell, 1994; Tubbs et al., 2005; Charmaz, 2006). Fol-
lowing Padgett (2008), we use a life-course perspective with a grounded
theory approach, which included semi-structured interviews followed by
more directed interviews. The grounded theory approach that we use is
suggested by Charmaz (2006), following ‘systemic, yet flexible guidelines’
(Charmaz, 2006, p. 2) that began with data collection and analysis at the
start of the interviews. This method allowed us to develop theory as data
are collected through interviews and interactions with study participants,
following up on important patterns and themes as additional data emerged.
Sampling and recruitment
Participants for the study were identified from notices posted on databases
and websites made available on the internet through the US Federal
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Management Emergency Administration (FEMA) and American Red
Cross. Others were identified through a ‘snowball’ method; still others
were approached on the streets and in high-trafficked shopping areas
within and near New Orleans. Participants included heads of household
(n ¼ 40) in families with school-age children. All families had been affected
by Hurricane Katrina, gave informed consent and received $40 (30 E) for
the ori ginal interview and $30 (22 E) for the follow-up. All study protocols
were approved by the authors’ university-based Protection of Human Sub-
jects Review Committee. Interviews were conducted over twenty-six
months, from July 2006 through September 2008.
The demographic breakdown of the heads of household interviewed
included 76 per cent African American, 18 per cent white and 2 per cent
other. The age range was eighteen to sixty-three (m ¼ 41). Thirty-four of
the participants were female, and six male. The number of children
ranged from one to five. Nineteen participants identified as low-income,
ten as working-class, eight as middle-class and one as upper-middle-class.
Three of the middle and the upper-class participants reported growing up
poor.
Procedures
The study included two life history interviews leading up to experiences
with and following Hurricane Katrina. The interviews were approximately
six months apart and lasted two hours. Each interview was conducted at a
setting chosen by the participant. In addition to using traditional grounded
theory methodology (Creswell, 1994; Padgett, 2008; Charmaz, 2006), inter-
viewers used ethnographic techniques, serving as participant observers and
volunteering with clean-up efforts in New Orleans between interviews.
Interviewers also spent time with participants at community events, in
workplaces or places of worship (Hammersley and Atkinson, 2007). Inter-
views were conducted by the study PI, a professional masters-level social
worker, and three trained graduate-level qualitative interviewers.
The second interview was individually tailored for each respondent
(Padgett et al., 2006; Padgett, 2007 ). It was designed to discern changes
since the last interview, fill in gaps, verify events, clarification and to
follow-up in detail on experiences related to Hurricane Katrina. Using the
field methods and debriefing model suggested by Hammersley and Atkin-
son (2007), Hill et al. (1997) and Padgett (2008), interviews were tape
recorded and transcribed verbatim. Field notes were also compared and
analysed. Researchers participated in written and oral debriefings following
each interview, and used multiple sources to triangulate collected data,
including media resources and member checks (Lincoln and Guba, 1985).
Using Nvivo software, multiple coders read transcripts and developed a
systematic data coding scheme. Separately, each analysed the transcripts
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for preliminary themes (open coding) and developed a list of categories and
concepts (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). We arrived at consensus on a list of
codes and then developed primary and secondary codes. Further themes
and patterns were identified through selective coding.
Limitations of this study
This study is limited by our snowball sampling method and the small size of
our sample. Findings cannot be generalised to the larger New Orleans
population. The intention of a qualitative grounded theory study,
however, is to raise new questions and generate theories, not to produce
a representative sample (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). Further, while partici-
pants did discuss their lives before and following the hurricane, some
important details may have been omitted or overlooked by interviewers
or study participants. Also, when these experiences occurred, participants
might have been under heavy stress, such that their memories may be falli-
ble or perceptions skewed. Whilst these are concerns, the importance of
these findings lies in the sense that participants make of their experiences
rather than factual representation of events.
Results
The patterns revealed in this study illustrate that, as is common in disaster
situations, nearly all participants benefited from some kind of homophilous
bonding social capital that either helped them to safety or they assisted
others within their network. The results demonstrate that heterophilous
bridging social capital played an important role as well. People gave and
received assistance across racial and socio-economic lines. There were
examples of linking social capital in which those in power not only
helped, but used their connections and relative advantage to assist, some-
times in unexpected ways.
The results reported below are direct quotes in study participants’ own
words. The language is reflective of and distinctive to the New Orleans
region, a mixture of French-speaking Canadian, some West African
languages, and a US Southern plantation vernacular. The dialect can be
so distinct that Whites and African Americans speak it differently. While
we did not capture that dialect, we have attempted to retain the fluid
nature of the speech.
Bonding social capital
As is usual in a crisis, most residents first received from or gave help to their
immediate or proximal networks. In a common example of bonding social
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capital, families met to strategise and develop a plan of action prior to the
arrival of the hurricane. As part of this planning process, there was an
exchange of physical, emotional and financial support across homophilous
network links that facilitated how families managed throughout the storm.
Rosland, an African American woman in her mid-thirties, discussed how
her family planned for and managed their evacuation:
Me and my little sister, ...and her husband, sittin’ up there talkin’. It’s goin’
on one o’clock in the morning. And we still in amazement like, ‘what we
gonna do’? I said, ‘I don’t know what ya’ll doin, but me and my kids,
ready to go’. They was leavin’ New Orleans, five o’clock Sunday morning.
And it was like my whole family ... we had eight carloads of us and we
was gonna stick together ...one stop, we all stop.
Some participants gave examples of bonding social capital prior to
Hurricane Katrina. Margaret, a grandmother and mother of a teenager,
described the social capital exchanges from her social network and how
losing part of that network affected her:
My sister was always with me. She drove. I didn’t drive. She drove me to the
store, movies. Play bingo. Went to the doctor together .... Always looked
after me and my children ...I was the one watch after our mama. You
know, cook, clean ...she lived with me ... . Lived with me and (my children
and grandchildren) all live together. My sister stay at her own place ....My
son, he stay up North ...I hardy did anything without (my sister) .... She in
Houston now. Mama in Houston ... . Now I just take the bus ... bus hardly
run ...bum rides to the store, church. Things different now. Hard to help
people when you can’t help yourself.
The bonding relationship influenced whether or not families left New
Orleans prior to Katrina and what they did after they returned. Janice’s
family, who lives across the river from New Orleans, did not want to separ-
ate. Unlike Rosland, Janice’s entire family, including her ex-husband,
weathered the storm together:
What happened was my mother. My mother refused to leave. I wasn’t
leaving my mom and dad behind. And my sister, her husband, my niece,
my nephew all came over and there was no way I was leaving them ....
We went to ... the pool hall right next door .... It’s real secure. She’s got
the glass that you can’t just break. It’s real protected. More protected
than being in the house .... We slept on the pool tables. We didn’t really
sleep you know. The only one who slept was my godchild. The rest of us
were just up and watching it.
Following the storm, nine members of Janice’s family lived in the safety of
the pool hall for several days. They shared resources and helped within the
community, which also watched over them. Several study participants
stayed behind in the storm, helping to rescue stranded individuals or provid-
ing supplies until the authorities came, exemplifying bonding social capital
at the neighbourhood level. Ken, a father of two, helped families in his
community:
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But um, Monday, I’d say 4, 5 o’clock around that time, I got in a boat ....
We can sit on top of a building and see people up on a church steeple,
people climbing on a roof. Well I wanna see I can get these people
down .... They had people with life jackets going down a highway. We
pick them up and we bring them to some high school. They have on life
jackets floating down a highway. They had this one couple, I’m saying a
couple it was a female and another guy, maybe 50 yards away from her
...I’m thinking Monday night, we got about 1415 people. I’m estimating
bout seven in a boat ... . We got about 1415 people.
Cindy, a thirty-two-year-old mother with four children, also started to help
people immediately. Trapped on top of their flooding apartment building,
she and her thirteen-year-old son swam to safety, she with her youngest
daughter on her back and he carrying the two middle children. Being the
only two in the family who could swim, they rescued Cindy’s grandfather,
aunt, uncle and cousin. Once their family was safe, she and her son found
a boat and rescued others, including a house-bound neighbour.
Cindy is a low-income African American woman who lived in an area of
New Orleans known as the Ninth Ward, one of the poorest neighbourhoods
in the city. Ken is a middle-income white man who lived in Saint Bernard
Parish, a suburban community southeast of New Orleans. Yet, they
both commented on the importance of neighbourhood and the social
connections within them. ‘This is where your family is; this is what you
know .... People, they part of the community too ... . They want the same
things you want, Ken said. Cindy described it this way: ‘I want them to help
me if I need helpin’, least ways I hope somebody will .... But these your
people. Even when you don’t know them from John. They still your people.’
Bridging and linking across the social gap
In addition to the bonding social capital in the form of helping those close to
them, participants described a system of bridging and linking social capital
exchanges in which people provided and shared information, resources,
supplies and food. In many cases, bridging and linking social capital
began to overlap as the socio-economic strata became blurred in the
heart of the aftermath of the floods; the distinctions were no longer as
socially important as in everyday life.
Yet, some African American study participants reported that socio-
economic status and race remained significant barriers. Martha, a middle-
class African American mother of two, described how she used her
socio-economic status and education to gain access to information, exempli-
fying heterogeneous linking social capital, by interacting with networks
beyond her own:
We in the Astro Dome (in Houston, Texas), just standing around and
nobody knew what to do. I saw these white ladies talking ... . It seemed
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that white people knew more than black people. They seemed to know what
to do .... So I went over and started asking questions. First they looked at
me like I don’t know what, but when they saw that I was articulate, they
started answering my questions .... Found out where to go to get clothes,
food. I didn’t even know about the money Red Cross was giving out ... .
That’s how we found our apartment ...I went back and told the black
ladies ... I don’t know how they knew (what was going on) and nobody
was telling us, but I was going to find out and let my people know too.
Martha used her initiative to find resources and spread that information to
others; some participants described receiving temporary or long-term
assistance from locals or strangers. Donna is disabled, with four children.
Because of her disability, she and her family were mistakenly sent to a reha-
bilitation shelter following the evacuation. ‘I didn’t need to be there. It was
all men anyways and me!’ Entitled to government subsidised housing,
Donna sought an apartment in Houston, Texas. A stranger came to her
rescue. Though, with all the stress she felt, Donna nearly rebuffed the
offer of help, which came from outside of her homophilous network:
I hear this voice, this young lady, ‘Ma’am,’ she said, ‘could you wait a
minute?’ I turn around I said, ‘ma’am, do me a favor, you don’t know me
or what I’ve been through, please back up off of me.’ ‘Ma’am wait a
minute.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, there’s no minutes left.’ The third time, she said
‘Please, listen to me.’ And there was only God made me turn around
I said what is it, she said ‘would you do me a favor, come to my apartment.
Let me show you something.’ ... I went to her apartment. She was a
twenty-eight-year old young female, she takes us up, we goes in. She just
started out. She had one air mattress in there, nothing else. She said,
‘You guys can stay here.’ Clean as whatever; you can eat off of her floor
but that one air mattress was in there. I said, ‘You kidding me?’ She said,
‘No, you guys can stay here with me.’ She said ‘I’ll get my friends to bring
you where you need to go to try and help you.’ So I accepted that offer.
Hurricane survivors spoke of the access to resources and support that came
from local and national organisations following the disaster. Several partici-
pants still worked in or received necessary help from groups created in the
aftermath of the disaster. Rebecca, a resident of Gentilly, a New Orleans
neighbourhood, and single mother is active in the Gentilly Civic Improve-
ment Association (GCIA), formed even before residents returned to New
Orleans following their evacuation. Unlike most New Orleans neighbour-
hoods, Gentilly encompasses multiple communities from a range of socio-
economic backgrou nds. Rebecca and several other GCIA members were
especially critical of the lack of government aid to their communities and
became motivated to rebuild their own community. ‘We were all going to
do something to help our neighborhoods because no one else was,’ she
said. She and her neighbours built a coalition amongst various racial and
economic groups. Summing up the bridging social capital effort, another
Gentilly resident, Vanessa, said ‘We are the real rainbow coalition: differ-
ent races, different classes, people of faith with nonbelievers. People who
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would be friendly, but who wouldn’t necessarily work together on a regular
day’. Rebecca concluded, ‘If I knew how to fix a traffic light I would have
done that too. It is amazing how much you can get done when you think
nobody cares’.
Linking social capital and community help
The GCIA was only one of a number of groups that started as a neighbour-
hood coalition and expanded beyond its homophilous network to generate
linking social capital connections to other communities and to organisations
outside of New Orleans. Most help started at the grass-roots level with
subsequent linking to more distant networks. While days and weeks after
the storm, city, state and federal resources failed them, participants saw
an increase in resou rces from local groups and the American Red Cross,
both during displacement and upon their return to New Orleans. The
GCIA worked with the Louisiana Recovery Authority, a government
agency formed following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Tulane University
professors and local politicians to develop a needs assessment and
rebuilding plan.
Study participants reported positively on the efforts of the local New
Orleans group Common Ground Collective consistently throughout the
interviews. Common Ground is a community agency that provided resources
including food banks, mental health counselling and health care to legal ser-
vices, serving as a focal point for volunteers and those in need of services.
Andrea, a mother of three children, helps out at a domestic violence
shelter started by Common Ground in an effort to give back to the
agency that helped her:
Let me tell you. If not for Common Ground ...I don’t know. You come
down here. What you need? You get food, clothes ...I got vitamins. You
need to use the computer, got internet? Doctors. Medicine. There is this
girl in there, did not get her check, she talk to a lawyer what come by.
This is the big help .... And donations everywhere! Everybody saw us on
T.V., everybody saw everything gone .... This is how I help now. I ain’t
guttin’ houses, but I do what I can do to help.
While bonding, bridging and linkin g social capital were useful in providing
help to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, not all participants fared well. At
the bonding level especially, some participants were influenced by friends
and relatives to stay, despite having resources and the ability to flee.
Even bridging and linking social capital had drawbacks, especially for
lower-income participants. Negative stereotypes affected how and
whether participants received services. Larry, a twenty-seven-year-old
African American father of two, received help from friends, but getting
institutional aid was difficult in Memphis, Tennessee:
I went into the office to get support for my kids and they treat me like I was
a criminal ... I didn’t look as bad as other people. I tried to keep myself up,
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but Red Cross said I won’t from New Orleans ... . Where I’m from then? ...
I was harassed by the police, called a pimp, a drug dealer. I was arrested and
I never done anything bad in my life ... I’m still tryin’ to clear that up ...I
wish I’d never walked in that room .... They treat me pretty bad ... .
Toni, a young African American mother, said she saw changes in people’s
attitudes about her. She described changes in people who had the power to
hire her:
They was good at first, then they started saying stuff to you in store and
watching you or your child like they gonna steal something ...because
when I first got here, I went and applied for jobs. You know what the
number one question that people ask you out here? Once you say you’re
from New Orleans or you show your ID, that’s the end of that ... . You
never get a phone call. Once they know that you are from New Orleans,
they scared to hire you.
Both Larry and Toni describe a breakdown in bridging and linking capital
that can occur when racial stereotypes become a factor in social capital
(Hero, 2003 ; Putnam, 2000). Despite these negative experiences, the
study results show that at some point in the process, nearly all study partici-
pants benefited from different levels of social capital. Bonding, bridging or
linking social capital were generated within and between social networks
and included individuals, outsiders, agencies or institutions. These
examples of social capital that existed pre-Katrina and developed post-
Katrina were largely positive for members of this study, although, as in
Larry and Toni’s cases, there were also negative experiences.
Discussion
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina provides a unique o pportunity to
more closely examine how social capital operates within a disaster
experience—a situation in which it could be its most useful. This exam-
inati on is especially relevant when trauma is mixed with poverty and
social exclus ion. The present stu dy is grounded in the assumption that
social capital exists in people’s lives, and that the important questions
are what kind(s) of social capital exists and how do people use it? We
found ins tances in which bonding, bridging and linking social capital
were instrumental in aiding participants to prepare for, endure and
mutua lly aid one another before and during the storm, in addition to
recovery following the floods.
The different conceptual types of social capital overlapped at times, but
we found that bonding social capital was especially relevant in day-to-day
activities and for logistical help during and following the storm and
floods. The usefulness of bonding social capital was especially true for
the lower-income study participants. We saw the strength of bonding
social capital in facilitating the pooling of resources to survive the storm,
1788 Robert L. Hawkins and Katherine Maurer
at New York University on September 29, 2011bjsw.oxfordjournals.orgDownloaded from
both mentally and physically. Bonding social capital plays an important
psychological role in the development of resiliency as well, also seen in
our results (Luthans et al., 2006).
Bridging social capital, too, was instrumental in helping people survive
the immediate aftermath of the flood. Connections across geographical,
social, cultural and economic lines provided access to essential resources
for families. This type of bridging social capital is common and indispensa-
ble following disasters, both natural and manmade. In addition to aid and
support proffered within New Orleans, as evacuees left the city, some for
the first time ever, they were introduced to new ideas, people and ways
of life. This crossing of economic and social lines was especially important
for lower-income residents.
What is essential for social workers in this examination, however, is not
just the existence of social capital, but how it operated in individual lives
and communities. We see bonding, bridging and linking not as compart-
mentalised experiences, but as experiences that rely on, build upon and
interact with each other. The interaction of bonding, bridging and linking
social capital resources played and continues to play a significant role in
the reconstruction of New Orleans. It is clear from this and other studies
(Caughy et al., 2003; Hawkins and Abrams, 2007; Leonard, 2004; Norris
et al., 2008; Rowlands and Tan, 2008) that while bonding social capital pro-
vides one layer of connection and security, it alone may not sustain well-
being in difficult times. Bonding helped some of those families left
behind to survive or plan for survival, but lack of community resources
before and after the hurricane left many residents hopeless and struggling
to maintain their lives (Beaudouin, 2007; Moyo and Moldovan, 2008;
Hawkins, in press). Combining bridging and linking with bonding social
capital offers the best economic chances.
We see also in this study that residents display a connection to New
Orleans that transcends mere geography and represents a peace of
mind that is centred within the people and communities. In earlier
work, we describe this sense of safety as ontologica l securit y (Hawkins
and Maurer, in press). Social capital helps to maintain this security and
operates within a social-psychological manner consistent with the
context of disaster research (Barnshaw and Trainor, 2007; Norris et al.,
2008).
Implications and conclusion
This study has wide-ranging implications for social work from clinical, com-
munity and policy perspectives. Social work can provide the foundation to
help clients connect to and use their positive social capital as a survival
mechanism, as a strength builder and as a resource for rebuilding.
Further, social workers can help communities identify natural sources of
Social Capital in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina 1789
at New York University on September 29, 2011bjsw.oxfordjournals.orgDownloaded from
positive social capital as well as sources from the outside. These connec-
tions, if used to their maximum benefit, could help individuals, families
and communities to survive difficult times and move forwards to establish
new communities and connections. Several authors argue that the
person-in-environment or ecological perspective commonly used in social
work would benefit greatly from increased focus on not just the individual
actor, but also the actor in the commu nity, and the community, as under-
stood through the concept of social capital (Author’s own; Loeffler et al.,
2004; Lynn, 2006; Mathbor, 2007).
One challenge for social workers is how to maximise social capital, while
distinguishing positive from negative or counter productive social capital.
Social work practitioners and researchers need to further explore defi-
nitions and operationalisation of social capital to better understand how
it affects individuals and communities as a whole. Disaster response train-
ing, research and practice commonly focus on individual mental health
(trauma) and psycho-social interventions, rather than community develop-
ment, to reduce vulnerabilities arising from social inequalities that often
exacerbate the impact of a disaster (Pyles, 2007; Moyo and Moldovan,
2008). Social work’s ecological approach that includes macro to micro-level
practice is ideally suited to interventions that address the power dynamics
of the complex bonding, bridging and linking of networks to recover and
rebuild post-disaster (Yanay and Benjamin, 2005; Mathbor, 2007; Pyles,
2007; Rowlands and Tan, 2008).
Social workers in the USA stand to gain much from the experiences and
research on the inclusion of social capital in commu nity development in
places such as Western Europe, East Asia and Australia. Social workers
internationally can also benefit from the consistent and clear use of social
capital in these sustainability models. These lessons can be useful in
response to disasters, but perhaps more importantly, to address the inequi-
ties of social exclusion by race/ethnicity and SES that are at the heart of the
social work mission and at the heart of social disasters, such as that wrought
by Hurricane Katrina.
Accepted: July 2009
Acknowledgements
This project was supported with a grant from the University of Kentucky
Center for Poverty Research through the US Department of Health and
Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evalu-
ation, grant number 2 U01 PE000002-04, Robert L. Hawkins, PI. Seed
funding for this project came from the New York U niversity Center for Cat-
astrophe Preparedness & Response.
1790 Robert L. Hawkins and Katherine Maurer
at New York University on September 29, 2011bjsw.oxfordjournals.orgDownloaded from
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... In Figure 4.7, social capital is considered from two perspectives, either the social structure perspective or the network perspective (Claridge, 2017). The reviewed literature observed that social structure is applied by researchers within the field of management sciences, and specifically SCM (Johnson et al., 2013:326;Yim & Leem, 2013:329;Horn et al., 2014:56;Müller, 2014:6;Whipple et al., 2015:6;Gelderman, Semeijn & Mertschuweit, 2016:225), while the network perspective is applied more frequently by researchers within the field of humanities (Hawkins & Maurer, 2010:1779Poortinga, 2012:287;Aldrich & Meyer, 2015:258;Boeri et al., 2016:97). ...
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