Bonding, bridging, and linking: How social capital operated in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina
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 communities. Results indicate residents, especially those with low incomes, relied on, built upon, and collapsed all levels of social capital for individual, family, and community survival. Participants described a process through which close ties (bonding) were important 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.