Friendship among unequal: resource generator in networks of friends

Tymofii Brik, Tetiana Kostiuchenko, Yuriy Savelyev


Sociological studies social capital have relied on the method of resource generators for years. Most of the existing empirical studies were administrated as representative surveys in order to estimate population distribution: how many people have access to social capital (and of what kind), who are these people, and perhaps why these particular people have/do not have certain social ties and resources. One of the important implications of such studies is that social capital is distributed unequally. Thus, social capital became a part of a general story of inequalities together with human capital and financial capital. However, the micro foundation of inequalities regarding resource generator has not been studied well. According to DiMaggio and Garip (2011), social inequalities at the macro-level can be shaped by interactions between people at the micro-level. Such interactions are constrained by ties and networks. Networks influence choices of people through the probability of adopting certain types of behavior; networks empose externalities and influence the intrinsic value or cost of practice; networks facilitate peer effects and clusterization. In some cases, networks can limit inequalities by giving niche advantages to underprivileged groups or when the structure of a network allows bridging ties. Thus, in some cases, social networks can increase or reduce inequalities in social capital - an effect that we cannot register directly with cross-sectional representative surveys that do not provide network data. We ask a simple question - how does a network structure of students influence the nature of their ties with respect to the distribution of resources. Surprisingly, to the best of our knowledge, there are very few studies that include resource generator to the studies of networks of friendship and ego-networks. Our research aims to fill this gap. We conducted a survey of nine student groups in the two flagship universities in Kyiv, Ukraine (Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and Taras Shevchenko National University). Our final sample includes about 350 students from the second year of undergrad programs in IT, social and natural sciences. We applied resource generator as well as an array of other questions about media consumption, trust, and their background. Then, we created ego-networks of all students as well as complete networks of each group using 10 types of ties: friendship, communication in messengers, communication in emails, advice seeking, and different types of collaboration and leisure. Our preliminary analysis shows the level of distribution and inequality of resources among students. In the paper, we analyze to what extent people who are friends are also equal in access to social capital. Besides larger implications to the sociological literature about network foundations of inequalities, we also add to the empirical literature by adopting the resource generator in Ukraine’s settings for the first time.

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