Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental and Public Affairs

First Committee Member

Julian Kilker

Second Committee Member

Daniel Stout

Third Committee Member

Tara Emmers-Sommer

Fourth Committee Member

Helen Neill

Fifth Committee Member

Chris Cochran

Number of Pages



This qualitative study finds evidence that poverty and homelessness undermine primary social relationships for many low-income people, eroding social capital, and that generalized trust may not be a good proxy for social capital, at least among a largely homeless population. This study also finds a surprising number of references to God, religion and spirituality among largely homeless populations when talking about their social networks, which addresses literature suggesting that church affiliation and religion may be unique in the formation of social capital. Twelve focus groups were conducted with a total 46 participants self-identified as low-income to explore social capital. A simplified model of the network- and resource-based theories of social capital was used to ask low-income participants who they would place in their social circles and what types of resources, demands and expectations arise out of the people in each of the circles. The study also used survey-type questions about generalized trust to generate discussion about levels of trust among participants and reasons for those levels of trust, as well as asking about current and past membership in various associations to address civic engagement. There was no evidence of a relationship between available resources through social networks and their reported trust levels.


Bonding social capital; Bridging social capital; Focus groups; God; Health disparities; Homeless persons; Homeless persons – Social networks; Poor; Poor – Social networks; Poverty – Social aspects; Religion; Social capital (Sociology); Spirituality; Trust


Public Policy | Religion | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology | Sociology of Culture

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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