Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

How Individual Characteristics Shape the Structure of Social Networks

Yann, Girard
Schunk, Daniel
Volume: 115
Pages: 197 - 216
Month: July
ISSN-Print: 0167-2681
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2015
Keywords: Social networks; Education; Link formation; Homophily; Cooperation; Field and lab data
Abstract: We study how students’ social networks emerge by documenting systematic patterns in the process of friendship formation of incoming students; these students all start out in a new environment and thus jointly create a new social network. As a specific novelty, we consider cooperativeness, time and risk preferences – elicited experimentally – together with factors like socioeconomic and personality characteristics. We find a number of robust predictors of link formation and of the position within the social network (local and global network centrality). In particular, cooperativeness has a complex association with link formation. We also find evidence for homophily along several dimensions. Finally, our results show that despite these systematic patterns, social network structures can be exogenously manipulated, as we find that random assignments of students to groups on the first two days of university impacts the students’ friendship formation process.