When networks speak volumes: Variation in the size of broader acquaintanceship networks

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Abstract

Personal network researchers have extensively studied the characteristics and effects of individuals’ closest relationships, but they have paid much less attention to broader acquaintanceship networks, despite evidence that weak ties can also provide social support. In this paper we focus on one aspect of these networks: acquaintanceship volume. We estimate its distributional parameters for a large, representative sample of the general population of Spain, explore its variation across social groups as well as its implications for social support availability. We designed a survey instrument based on the Network Scale-Up Method and implemented it in a national survey in Spain. Our results suggest that Spaniards have approximately 536 acquaintances, with a large inter-individual variation, comparable to the estimates reported for the American population. Acquaintanceship volume varies with gender, age, education, and income. These differences are partially related to the unequal participation of social groups in voluntary associations, confirming the civic value of such associations, and in employment. Even with similar core network size, acquaintanceship volume increases the likelihood of having adequate social support available, suggesting that broader acquaintanceship networks also structure individual outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-69
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Networks
Volume56
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • Acquaintanceship
  • Network size
  • Personal networks
  • Social support
  • Weak ties

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