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Social Capital and Quality of Life in Rural Areas - RE0233

Description
Rural areas are often perceived to benefit from strong community ties, a high quality of life and greater social capital than many urban communities, and a body of rural research evidence suggests positive quality of life outcomes for rural residents. However, it has also been argued that these positive headlines may obscure pockets of disadvantage and deprivation in some sections of the community. In order to support Defra‟s DSO for strong rural communities, this project will explore social capital in rural areas from both a theoretical and practical perspective, with particular regard to what makes social capital unique in rural areas and how different segments of rural communities are affected differently by social and demographic change. Using qualitative and quantitative tools, including a rapid evidence review of the theoretical literature and original fieldwork based on the Q methodology, the project aims to unpack some of the headline findings from the rural evidence base and provide a bottom-up perspective on the effects of demographic and social change on rural social capital. By combining a firm theoretical foundation with an exploration of the different experiences of different sections of rural communities, the project will improve the focus and efficacy of rural policy making.
Objective
The proposed project continues Defra’s programme of research designed to unpack and provide a more nuanced understanding of the needs of rural people and communities. It will feed into Defra’s DSO for strong rural communities and help the department and other stakeholders (such as the Commission for Rural Communities) to develop evidence based policy around how these needs are addressed through public policy and service delivery. The research aims to go beyond headline statistics relating to social capital and quality of life in rural areas and deepen our understanding of different population segments experience of living in a rural community. Rural areas are often perceived to benefit from strong social networks, a high quality of life, and greater social capital than many urban communities. However, positive quality of life outcomes at the aggregate level may disguise pockets of deprivation and the potential exclusion of the least well off and vulnerable groups as a result of a changing social structure. Brook Lyndhurst focused on the following research questions:

1. How is social capital experienced by different segments of rural populations? Analysis should include differences between newcomers and original residents, as well as socio-demographic characteristics such as socio-economic and age group.

2. How do geographical factors affect experience of social capital - what is the relationship between rurality and social capital?

3. What other factors affect experience of social capital, particularly with respect to the differences between urban and rural areas.

4. Are there differences between rural and urban experiences of social capital, and if so, what are they?

5. What are the unique influences on rural communities, and how will this social change affect social capital and quality of life in rural areas, particularly for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups?


Project Documents
• Final Report : Social Capital and Quality of Life in Rural Areas   (2290k)
• Final Report - Annex : Social Capital and Quality of Life in Rural Areas   (2034k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2010

Cost: £83,825
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Brook Lyndhurst
Keywords
Rural Issues              
Social Research              
Fields of Study
Rural Affairs