Social Capital: It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know.

social circle

The concept of social capital and its contribution to success and well-being in a variety of settings has the potential for academic library outreach.

Research has found that those with extensive and varied networks of social relationships can benefit in myriad ways, including academic and professional achievement.

A connection has also been found between lower levels of social capital and negative effects on individuals as well as communities generally.

Unfortunately, I can count on two hands how many times I’ve been overlooked by an employer for a promotion because they decided to promote an employee that is in their social circle.

In fact, the sociological literature suggests that those with higher levels of social capital have greater social and economic opportunities. Following a Bourdieusian approach, we define social capital as the resources that are potentially available in our social ties. If your social ties consist of mainly poor people who match your economic status, you have no social capital.

I had the qualifications, but my college degree and ten years of experience was trumped by employees who had social capital with their manager/employers.

Social capital is when your supervisor or managers decide to promote a person based on personal relationships. Even if you have a higher level of education, higher performance stats and years more of job-related experience, that means nothing when it comes to a friend hooking up another friend with a job.


Unfortunately, it is not illegal in the workplace. What is unfortunate, however, is how employers try to hide the obvious by questioning your ability to do the job. When they tell you that you were not chosen for the promotion, they offer what they call “Constructive criticism,” by saying things like you do not have the leadership skills for the job, or they think you need work on your “Personal Brand.”

It’s all bullshit, and as much as I want to tell them to FUCK OFF, I can’t. I’d like to just be direct and tell them the following:

“Look, I know you hooked up your friend for the promotion and my qualifications had nothing to do with your decision not to promote me.” 

In a perfect world, things would be fair and just. This world isn’t perfect nor is it fair or just. It is corrupt and for anyone who believes if they just work hard, get a degree and show leadership skills that they will get a job or be promoted strictly on work ethic is truly disillusioned!

Let’s add gender and race into the scenario and the obstacles are almost insurmountable.

It is tragic how social capital economically isolates people whose parents and ancestors are poor and lack generational wealth. I came from a low-income family and I was the first to graduate from high school and college out of 6 siblings! My parents didn’t graduate from high school either.

My parents were poor and had a low social status, my grandparents were also poor with a low social status and the list goes on addressing generations of poverty caused by slavery, Jim Crow and general exploitation of the poor.

How can I compete with a Jessica who comes from a middle-class family and her parents know many other middle to upper-class people that will allow their daughter to work for them mainly through social connections? I am no competition despite my fancy college degree because I lack the social capital. There are different types of capital, and social capital plays a huge role in determing life success.


I once believed that it was my fault. I thought that I wasn’t presenting myself good in interviews or maybe I should turn that Bachelor’s degree into a Master’s Degree and I’d have a better shot at succeeding. That was far from the case.

I was good enough to be promoted. I was smart enough to perform all job duties. I had more than enough experience. What I didn’t have was social capital.

How do you get social capital if you come from a lineage of generational poverty?

The most effective way to stop the unfair advantages people who have social capital have over those who do not is by getting involved with politics and changing employment laws. There is no way more effective than creating a law that makes this practice illegal. If we do not act politically on this matter, we will see the income and opportunity gap widen even more as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

You can marry into a family with social capital if you’re lucky. People with connections like to marry other people with connections, so the likelihood of them considering you for marriage is slim to none. They don’t look at marriage purely from a perspective of love and compatibility. They also seek a partner who has something to bring to the table.

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Lavar Ball just created a show because he refuses to wait on Nike to give his son a shoe deal. Since Lavar Ball has no social capital despite the money he can invest from his son’s basketball career, he lacks the manufacturing connections to get a good deal creating a shoe. As a result, he can’t compete with Nike or any other shoe manufacturer with social capital and he had to sell his shoe for $495 because it cost him an arm and a leg to create the shoe. Yvette Carnell with Breaking Brown News brought this great example to my attention.


Byron Allen is another example of how wealth with no social capital can stop you from succeeding. Bryon is a billionaire who is suing Charter Cable for discrimination. Calling it an historic ruling, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc. (ESN) announced today that Federal District Court Judge George H. Wu denied Charter Communications’ Motion to Dismiss ESN’s $10 billion lawsuit against Charter for racial discrimination in contracting, in violation of Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §1981.

Now imagine if Byron wasn’t black and he had social capital with the elite, majority white media and TV network corporations? There would be no lawsuit, he would have easily gotten a seat at the table.

For information on this lawsuit visit:

Even if you get the financial capital to create a business, the monopolies that are set up in America automatically locks you out of succeeding and competing with existing corporations who have elite social capital.

Another way to get social capital is to try to form friendships with people who have connections maybe by attending networking groups. Don’t attend networking groups with people on your socioeconomic level. Network with people who are far ahead of you financially who can benefit your advancement.

It is very to difficult to try to enter closely knit and well established social networks of people who have a higher social capital than you do. By all means, try to enter these groups but be aware of the odds that are stacked against you so you do not feel bad about yourself if you are not able to enter their elite social circles.

Yvette Carnell with Breaking Brown, Enlightened me to the meaning and devastating effects of social capital on African Americans and poor people in the United States.

Please check out her website at:

Also check out her very interesting, and insightful show on Youtube! Follow the links on her website to check out her Youtube show which airs live on Youtube Mondays & Wednesdays 9pm Eastern Time/8pm Central Time.

By Janell Hih



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