The paper offers a resource approach to describe and explain differences in accessing individual social capital. People invest in social capital if they use different kinds of capital (economic, human, social) to form networks of personal relationships. Access to social capital is seen as transformation of other sorts of capital. The accumulation thesis predicts that people with more resources will gain better access to social capital. On the contrary, the compensation thesis predicts that certain structural conditions like availability of homophilous partners, time budgets or spatial contexts constraint the choices of social relations.
Both effects are tested empirically with survey data from German cities. Access to social capital is measured with a resource generator. The measured social resources are subsumed to different dimensions of social capital. Access to these dimensions varies considerably over the population. Our results show strong support for the accumulation thesis albeit with varying influence on different dimensions of social capital. On the other hand, compensational effects are rather weak and only significant in some dimensions of social capital.