Would Time Heal The Divide? Examining The Competing Sources of Network Homophily in Longitudinal Friendship Networks

Xinwei Xu

Contact: xx239@cornell.edu

This paper explores how adolescent friendship networks evolve amidst two simultaneous sources of in-group homophily—ethnic boundaries and cultural foci. Previous network studies mostly work with a “disentangling” approach that attempts to isolate and distinguish between three families of network processes: homophilous preference, relational closure, and structural foci, and thus give less attention to the relationship between those mechanisms. Following an emerging line of studies examining the multidimensionality of network homophily, this paper raises the possibility that, over time, these forces of attraction may pull in different (and potentially opposing) directions and thus render potential opportunities for mitigating inter-group divides. Analyzing two-wave longitudinal school-network data among adolescents in three European countries (Germany, Sweden, and England), this paper (a) examines the role of cultural similarity over a multitude of attitudinal and behavioral dimensions (including cultural values, activities, and deviant norms) in the development and maintenance of adolescent friendships and (b) investigates whether ethnic and cultural homophily mutually reinforce each other over time and thus leading to increasing correlations between ethnicity and cultural attributes at the global level. Preliminary findings suggest that (a) there is no strong evidence for increasing network clustering along both ethnicity and cultural attributes, and the interaction between ethnic and cultural value homophily remains insignificant across time; (b) there exist differential effects of cultural homophily concerning three different cultural domains (values, activities, and deviant norms); and (c) we didn’t observe increasing correlations between cultural attributes and ethnicity at the global level over time, which suggests that ethnic and cultural homophily can consist of competing forces of attraction. Over time, it is more likely to observe cross-cutting social circles instead of a network structure characterized by an overlap of ethnic and cultural segregation.

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