Discussion Paper no. 03-10


Social cohesion is a concept difficult to define and to measure. As there can be many definitions, so there can be many measurements. The main problem, either in defining or measuring the concept, is its multi-level and multi-dimensional nature. At one extreme, country is the most commonly used level to view social cohesion but measurement at this level is of little use for interventions. At the other extreme, community is the most useful level but it is a social construct for which data are difficult to obtain, given the administrative boundaries used in social surveys. As an initial attempt to measure social cohesion at a sub-country level, this study focuses on census metropolitan areas for which data on several dimensions of social cohesion are available. We use the information gathered by the National Survey on Giving, Volunteering and Participating (NSGVP) on three domains of social cohesion: political, economic, and social. Statistical techniques including factor analysis and standardization are applied to the data to generate an overall index of social cohesion for each CMA.