The invisible threads: Estimating social cohesion based on broad acquaintanceship networks

Miranda Lubbers (Autonomous University of Barcelona)

May 30, 2023, 11:30–12:30


Room Auditorium 4 (First floor - TSE Building)

IAST General Seminar


Research into social cohesion has almost entirely ignored one of its core dimensions: the broad acquaintanceship networks that have long been assumed to hold societies together across categorical boundaries of, for instance, social class. Undoubtedly, this gap is due to the technical complexity of studying acquaintanceship networks. To address this gap, I adopted and evaluated a methodology based on the Network Scale-Up Method, which collects aggregate relational data. By implementing it in a nationally representative (N~2,500) survey in Spain in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I analyzed how much individuals vary in their network exposure to social groups experiencing economic distress, whether network exposure depended on their own socioeconomic status and age, and how this structural measure of cohesion is associated with an often-used subjective indicator of cohesion, institutional trust. Results show that people with lower incomes and education had perceived acquaintanceship networks that were significantly more affected by the crisis. Furthermore, independently of their own socioeconomic status, higher network exposure partially explained their lower trust in the institutions that could mitigate economic distress. Based on this empirical application, I suggest further improvements to the methodology.