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Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks

Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin and James M. Cook
Annual Review of Sociology
Vol. 27 (2001), pp. 415-444
Published by: Annual Reviews
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2678628
Page Count: 30
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Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks
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Abstract

Similarity breeds connection. This principle-the homophily principle-structures network ties of every type, including marriage, friendship, work, advice, support, information transfer, exchange, comembership, and other types of relationship. The result is that people's personal networks are homogeneous with regard to many sociodemographic, behavioral, and intrapersonal characteristics. Homophily limits people's social worlds in a way that has powerful implications for the information they receive, the attitudes they form, and the interactions they experience. Homophily in race and ethnicity creates the strongest divides in our personal environments, with age, religion, education, occupation, and gender following in roughly that order. Geographic propinquity, families, organizations, and isomorphic positions in social systems all create contexts in which homophilous relations form. Ties between nonsimilar individuals also dissolve at a higher rate, which sets the stage for the formation of niches (localized positions) within social space. We argue for more research on: (a) the basic ecological processes that link organizations, associations, cultural communities, social movements, and many other social forms; (b) the impact of multiplex ties on the patterns of homophily; and (c) the dynamics of network change over time through which networks and other social entities co-evolve.

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