Structure and returns: toward a refined understanding of Internet use and social capital

Xiaoqian Li, Wenhong Chen , Yoonmo SANG, Na Yeon Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study carves out a promising theoretical space to investigate how general and specific Internet use may facilitate various returns of social capital by separating the structural embeddedness of social capital from the returns of social capital. Drawing on a randomly sampled survey of adult residents in a major US city, we examine how general Internet use, interacted with network diversity, contributes to various returns of social capital: bonding and bridging, online and offline. We further unpack general Internet use to specific Internet use and explore their relations with the returns of social capital. The results show that general Internet use is positively related to all the online bonding, online bridging, and offline social capital returns, whereas specific Internet use (i.e., informational, participatory, and recreational) is only positively related to online but not offline returns of social capital. Network diversity moderates the relationship between general Internet use and offline returns of social capital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2018
Externally publishedYes


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