Activating social capital: Steep mobility of descendants of Turkish immigrants at the top of the corporate business sector

Sara Rezai, Elif Keskiner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This qualitative study on steep social mobility is based on interviews with descendants of guest-worker immigrants from Turkey. They currently work in highly prestigious positions in the field of professional business services in the Netherlands. The majority of studies on social capital and career mobility is based on quantitative methods which makes it difficult to gain insight into its mechanisms. In line with Lin (Annu Rev Sociol 25:467–487, 1999) and Smith (Am J Sociol 111:1–57, 2005) the current article makes the distinction between the access to and the activation of social capital. By explaining how the professional characteristics of the social climbers triggered their network connections to become ‘donors’ (Portes A, Annu Rev Sociol 24:1–24, 1998), we attempt to shed light on the mechanisms of social capital activation. For this claim we apply the concepts of ‘likeability’ and ‘reliability’. Furthermore, we categorize two types of donors that have emerged from our data: ‘ambassadors’ and ‘coaches’. By comprehending how the descendants of migrants activated their social capital, this article gives insight into the mechanisms of their steep social mobility, and it deepens our understanding of the relation between social capital and career mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRevisiting Migrant Networks
Subtitle of host publicationMigrants and their Descendants in Labour Markets
EditorsElif Keskiner, Michael Eve, Louise Ryan
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783030949723
ISBN (Print)9783030949716
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameIMISCOE Research Series
ISSN (Print)2364-4087
ISSN (Electronic)2364-4095

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Activation of social capital
  • Likeability
  • Reliability
  • Second generation
  • Social capital
  • Social mobility


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