August 2008

IZA DP No. 3669: Local Social Capital and Geographical Mobility: Some Empirics and a Conjecture on the Nature of European Unemployment

merged with DP 3668 into "Social Capital, Mobility and Unemployment in Europe", published in: Journal of Urban Economics, 2010, 68 (2), 191-204

European labor markets are characterized by the low geographical mobility of workers. The absence of mobility is a factor behind high unemployment when jobless people prefer to remain in their home region rather than to go prospecting in more dynamic areas. In this paper, we attempt to understand the determinants of mobility by introducing the concept of local social capital. Using data from a European household panel (ECHP), we provide various measures of social capital, which appears to be a strong factor of immobility. It is also a fairly large factor of unemployment when social capital is clearly local, while other types of social capital are found to have a positive effect on employability. We also find evidence of the reciprocal causality, that is, individuals born in another region have accumulated less local social capital. Finally, observing that individuals in the South of Europe appear to accumulate more local social capital, while in Northern Europe they tend to invest in more general types of social capital, we argue that part of the European unemployment puzzle can be better understood thanks to the concept of local social capital.