Thursday, 29 October 2020

Universal approaches to measuring social distances and segregation

How people form connections is a fundamental question in the social sciences. Peter Blau offered a powerful explanation: people connect based on their positions in a social space. Yet a principled measure of social distance remains elusive. Based on a social network model, we develop a family of intuitive segregation measures formalising the notion of distance in social space.

The Blau space metric we learn from connections between individuals offers an intuitive explanation for how people form friendships: the larger the distance, the less likely they are to share a bond. It can also be employed to visualise the relative positions of individuals in the social space: a map of society.

Using US and UK survey data, we show that the social fabric is relatively stable across time. Physical separation and age have the largest effect on social distance with implications for intergenerational mixing and isolation in later stages of life. You can read about our work "Inference of a universal social scale and segregation measures using social connectivity kernels" free here and in the journal Royal Society Interface here. Till and Nick.

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