Institute of Sports Science

Sports participation and social capital formation

01.12.2016 – National and international policies claim, that various beneficial effect are associated with sports participation, including the formation of social capital. In contrast to this popular policy claim, however, empirical evidence based on large-scale survey data is largely missing.

In a recently finished research project – conducted jointly by Ute Schüttoff and Tim Pawlowski (both University of Tübingen) as well as Paul Downward (Loughborough University) and Michael Lechner (University of St. Gallen) – data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) is used to examine if sports participation has a causal effect on social capital formation during adolescence and whether such effects depend on the organizational format or the type of sports practiced.

Propensity score matching is employed in the analysis with possible endogeneity removed by exploiting the information in, and the structure of, the GSOEP. Findings suggest that regular sports participation positively impacts adolescents’ social capital through volunteering, helping friends and civic involvement. Furthermore, these effects seem to develop predominantly in sports clubs (in contrast to other organizational formats). The empirical evidence of this study is suggestive of the relevant societal role of non-profit clubs as institutions for practicing sport.

The full length paper is now accepted for publication in Social Science Quarterly – a renowned general interest journal that publishes current research on a broad range of topics including economics and social science.

Schüttoff, U., Pawlowski, T., Downward, P. & Lechner, M. Sports participation and social capital formation during adolescence, Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming.