Blog 9: SNA, friendships, and community

Article 1:

In this article, Kleit (2001) uses social network analysis to investigate the role that social networks play in job searches, specifically for individuals who live in scattered-site public housing communities.  Based on the theory (see Figure 1) that housing lower-income individuals with more affluent peers open them to more opportunities, Kleit hypothesized that living in more dispersed housing would provide lower-income individuals with access to more jobs.  Thus, to explore this, she sought to answer the following research question: Does living in small clusters of public housing in a non-poor area instead of in a dispersed housing pattern influence the types of social ties poor people use when they look for jobs? Using in-person survey data from 253 women living in either dispersed or clustered housing, Kleit asked participants to report the people who they had talked to or would talk to about jobs, as well as various other questions to account for the persons role in their life.  Kleit then identified which of the individuals listed were neighbors.  Thus, the nodes in this project were the individuals who lived int he neighborhood, and the links represent whether or not two individuals would communicate about jobs. 

She found that although there is greater diversity in dispersed communities, these communities are not as close as clustered communities, which she posits may influence their willingness to reach out for job connections as women in dispersed communities were less likely to reach out to neighbors than those in clustered communities.  In this sense, SNA allows us to view the structural impact of housing policies as they apply to entire communities as opposed to solely individuals. 

Article 2:

In their article, Valente and colleagues (2009) use social network analysis to investigate adolescent friendship choices and weight.  As highlighted in the meme below, and evidenced through decades of scholarship, peer relationships are vastly influential in adolescence.

Based on past research which suggests that weight gain seems to spread through family and friend networks, the researchers hypothesized that obesity may spread similarly through adolescent friendships.  Thus, the goal of the study was to investigate if overweight adolescents were more or less likely to have overweight friends.  Using in-person surveys with 685 students between ages 11 and 15, the researchers asked students to report about their friends in class as well as took measures of their weight.  Thus, the nodes in this project were the 685 students, the links represent those who were nominated as friends, and the students BMI were used as node attributes. 

They found that overweight girls were less likely to be nominated as a friend, even though overweight students nominated more friends. Additionally, their network analyses suggested that friendships were more likely between students of similar rather than different weight.  In this way, SNA allowed the researchers to investigate the various relationships of children through nodes and links as opposed to just singular relationships.  This provides for a more accurate depiction of the adolescent friendship network structure as it relates to weight.

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