In this paper we theoretically and empirically explore the question whether the unequal distribution of different aspects of social capital (networks, trust, norms) over a number of social dimensions (gender, age, income, employment status, and educational level) is smaller in countries with more developed welfare systems. Our data cover 13 Western industrialized countries and two periods in time (1981, 1999). The paper adds to the existing literature in several ways: by focusing explicitly on the empirical study of social capital inequality, by relating this subject to (quantitative and qualitative) welfare state characteristics, and by studying it from a cross-national and longitudinal perspective. We find that in the sample of countries analyzed there is no clear relationship between social capital inequality and welfare state characteristics. However, whether generally welfare states do not reduce social capital inequalities remains an issue for future research.