New, Forthcoming, and In-Progress Work
Relationship Change, Network Change, and the Use of Single Name Generators in Longitudinal Research on Social Support
Alexandra Marin and Soli Dubash
As relationships change and people change the kinds of support they provide, name generators that collect information about ties that provide particular kinds of support in a repeated points of time may not effectively capture ties that are active but whose roles have changed. This paper shows that a significant minority of network members change the kinds of support they provide over time. They either discontinue a support previously provided or provide a new type of support. I examine the implications of this finding for longitudinal studies of support networks based on single name generators and show that this practice can result in frequent misperceptions of network membership change.
Noting the Ties After Tying the Knot: Photo-Based Elicitation of Personal Networks
Alexandra Marin and Chang Lin
We report on an interview method using photo-based network elicitation and a landmark anchoring event to collect data on relationship change in ego networks retrospectively. Using the wedding albums of married or formerly married respondents, we populate a network from many years ago with persons pictured in the album and then collect data about each respondent’s relationship with each person at the time of the wedding and at the time of the interview. This data collection method mitigates many of the problems associated with retrospective data collection and does not have the logistical difficulties associated with panel studies. Our findings show that this method is successful in collecting significant numbers of connections that have undergone change and especially reductions in activity along various dimensions.
Network Instability in Times of Stability
Alexandra Marin and Keith Hampton
Personal networks undergo change in response to major life course events. Individual, relational, and network characteristics that influence network instability in the absence of a significant life transition/crisis are less understood. We focus on those ties that transition from active to dormant. Because the shift to dormancy is often interpreted as a reduction in support or social capital, it is considered problematic. This study is based on longitudinal survey data of middle‐class adults who did not undergo life changes. Even in this context of relative stability, support networks experience rates of dormancy similar to those observed during periods of major upheaval. Tie dormancy is unrelated to individual characteristics, network size and density, or homophily along dimensions other than sex. Frequency and medium of communication are particularly notable as factors that were not related to tie dormancy. Ties were less likely to become dormant if they were geographically or emotionally close, immediate kin or neighbors, highly supportive, the same sex, or more embedded in the network. These findings provide context for how support networks operate when not buffeted by exogenous forces. They provide a baseline for understanding the impact on networks of transitions, trauma, new media, and difficult life circumstances.
The Relationship Between the Position of Name Generator Questions and Responsiveness in Multiple Name Generator Surveys
Reza Yousefi-Nooraie, Alexandra Marin, Robert Hanneman, Eleanor Pullenayegum, Lynne Lohfeld, Maureen Dobbins
Sociological Methods and Research
Using randomly ordered name generators, we tested the effect of name generators’ relative position on the likelihood of respondents’ declining to respond or satisficing in their response. An online survey of public health staff elicited names of information sources, information seekers, perceived experts, and friends. Results show that when name generators are asked later, they are more likely to go unanswered and respondents are more likely to respond that they do not know anyone or list fewer names. The effect of sequence was not consistent in different question types, which could be the result of the moderating effect of willingness to answer and question sensitivity.
Social Network Analysis: An Example of Fusion Between Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
Reza Yousefi Nooraie, Joanna E. M. Sale, Alexandra Marin, Lori E. Ross
Journal of Mixed Methods Research
A quantitative approach to social network analysis involves the application of mathematical and statistical techniques and graphical presentation of results. Nonetheless—as with all sciences—subjectivity is an integral aspect of network analysis, manifested in the selection of measures to describe connection patterns and actors’ positions (e.g., choosing a centrality indicator), in the visualization of social structure in graphs, and in translating numbers into words (telling the story). Here, we use network research as an example to illustrate how quantitative and qualitative approaches, techniques, and data are mixed along a continuum of fusion between quantitative and qualitative realms.
The Role of Skin Color in Latino Social Networks: Color Homophily in Sending and Receiving Societies
Wendy Roth and Alexandra Marin
How does skin color shape the social networks and integration pathways of phenotypically diverse immigrant groups? Focusing on Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, groups with considerable diversity across the Black-White color line, we explore whether migrants to the United States have greater color homophily in their primary social networks than non-migrants in the sending societies. We analyze egocentric network data, including unique skin color measures for both 114 respondents and 1,702 alters. We test hypotheses derived from ethnic unifier theory and color line racialization theory. The data show evidence of color homophily among Dominicans, but suggest that these patterns may be imported from the sending society rather than fostered by the U.S. context. Further, we find that migrants’ skin color is associated with having ties to White or Black Americans, but with different patterns for each ethnic group. We discuss the implications of these findings for economic mobility and U.S. racial hierarchies.
Density Without Drudgery? Measuring Alter Embeddedness and Ego Network Density Without the Dyad Census
Alexandra Marin, Chang Lin, Soli Dubash, and Xiaowei Li
Ego network density is surely the most widely-used structural measure used by ego network researchers. Density is commonly used to conceptualize cohesion and has been shown empirically to be conducive to creating high levels of social support in networks, and creating and reinforcing consistent expectations.
While important, ego network density is a pain to measure, for all involved. Whole network density can be calculated using data in which each respondent is asked only to report on their own ties, but data for ego network density require that respondents complete a full dyad census, reporting on the ties between all alters in the their networks. For a network of twelve alters this is 66 ties. This is tedium for respondents. For researchers it represents precious survey minutes that could be used for other questions, and can also cost us the goodwill of our respondents, which is why these questions are typically placed at the end of surveys.
A single item measure of network density in which respondents simply report whether their network is highly or minimally connected, would be ideal. However, such a measure has already been tested and shown to be unreliable (Burt 1984). We test here an alternative that requires one survey question per alter. Respondents report on the embeddedness of each alter, a cognitively simpler task, rather than the density of the overall network.
622 respondents completed one of three name generator surveys with respondents randomly-assigned to one of the name generator options. For each of the 6081 alters listed, we asked “Please estimate how many of the other people listed this person knows.” Respondents selected from the options “None or a few,” “Less than half,” “about half,” “more than half,” or “all or almost all.” We correlated measures based on the dyad census to those based on the name interpreter item. Our results show that the reliability of this measurement method depends on the type of name generator used to collect the data and on network size. For smaller networks and those that do not prime respondents to think about different network domains, the measure correlates acceptably well with the dyad-census-based measures. Respondents are less able to reliably estimate alter-embeddeness when networks are large or when they have been elicited using multiple domain-clustering name generators.
Our results suggest that while the dyad census is more reliable, where it is not feasible and where network sizes are not expected to be large, alter-level respondent reported-embeddedness may be an acceptable substitute.