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Homophily (i.e., "love of the same") is the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others. The presence of homophily has been discovered in a vast array of network studies. More than 100 studies that have observed homophily in some form or another and they establish that similarity breeds connection. These include age, gender, class, and organizational role.
Individuals in homophilic relationships share common characteristics (beliefs, values, education, etc.) that make communication and relationship formation easier. The opposite of homophily is heterophily or intermingling.
Homophily between mated pairs in animals has been extensively studied in the field of evolutionary biology in which it is known as assortative mating. Homophily between mated pairs is common within natural animal mating populations.
In their original formulation of homophily, Lazarsfeld and Merton (1954) distinguished between status homophily and value homophily.
To test the relevance of homophily researchers have distinguished between baseline homophily and inbreeding homophily. The former is simply the amount of homophily that would be expected by chance and the second is the amount of homophily over and above this expected value.
It is described, for status homophily, individuals with similar social status characteristics that are more likely to associate with each other than by chance, such as ascribed characteristics like race, ethnicity, sex, age, and acquired characteristics like religion, education etc.
Dimensions of Baseline homophily and Inbreeding homophily
Race and Ethnicity
Race and ethnicity is of the most importance in dividing social networks in United States today. Strong structural effects of category size and category differences have a large influence on race and ethnicity. For race and ethnicity, the baseline homophily generated by different group sizes usually combines with the different racial/ethnic groups' position on other aspects like education, occupation etc. The baseline homophily plays an important role not only in large populations, but also in smaller ones like classrooms and workplaces. In addition, beside the baseline homophily, the primary standing of racial/ethnic homophily also accounts to the greatest proportion of inbreeding homophily.
Sex and Gender
With regard to sex and gender, homophily of networks is remarkably opposite to that of race and ethnicity. Compared with race and ethnicity, men and women link with each other with considerable connections in residence, social class and other characteristics. In addition they are considered roughly equal in population. It is concluded that inbreeding but not baseline homophily leads to most sex homophily.
Age homophily results from the baseline homophily to a high extent. An interesting pattern of age homophily for groups of different ages was found by Marsden (1988). It indicated a strong relationship between someone's age and the social distance to other people with regard to confiding in someone. For example, the larger age gap someone had, the smaller chances that they were confided by others with lower ages to "discuss important matters".
Both baseline homophily and inbreeding homophily cause the dimension of religion.
Education, Occupation and Social Class
The dimensions of these homophilies were claimed to be derived greatly from one's family of origin. It indicated that regarding education, occupation and social class, the baseline homophily account for a large proportion of them.
Geography: The most basic source of homophily is space. People are more likely to have contact with those who are closer to us in geographic location than those who are distant. Though the telephone, e-mail, social network have loosened the bounds of geography by lowering the effort involved in contact, these new modes have certainly not eliminated the old pattern.
Family ties: Family connections, of strong affective bonds and slow decay, are the bio-social web that connect us to those who are simultaneously similar and different. Kin ties often produce relatively close, frequent contact among those who are at great geographic distance. On the other hand, the marriage bond within families creates rather dramatic structuring of kinship ties.
Organizational Foci: School, work and voluntary organizational foci provide the great majority of ties that are not kin, supporting the argument that focused activity puts people into contact with one another to foster the formation of personal relationships. Many friendships, confiding relations, and social support ties are formed within voluntary groups. The social homogeneity of most organizational foci creates a strong baseline homophily in networks that are formed there.
Isomorphic Sources: Occupational, Family, and Informal roles: The connections between people who occupy equivalent roles will induce homophily in the system of network ties, which is common in three domains: workplace, family, and informal networks.
Cognitive processes: People who have demographic similarity tend to own shared knowledge, and therefore they have a greater ease of communication and share cultural tastes, which can also generate homophily.
Effect of homophily
Homophily facilitates individuals' social interactions. For example: homophily is regarded as an explanation for the appearance of some qualities such as being tolerant, cooperative are localized in social space (Mark, 2003). Also, homophily helps people to access information (Choudhury, Sundaram, & John 2010), diffusion of innovations and behaviors (Christakis & Fowler, 2007), opinion and norm formation (Centola, Willer, & Macy, 2005).
In Mustafa's paper, he pointed out that homophily influences diffusion patterns over a social network via two approaches. First, homophily affects the way a social network develops. Second, individuals are more likely to successfully influence others when they are similar to them.
Homophily is a fertility factor; An increased fertility is seen in people with a tendency to seek acquaintance among those with common characteristics. Governmental family policies have a decreased influence on fertility rates in such populations.
- McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). "Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks". Annual Review of Sociology. 27:415–444. Cite error: Invalid
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- Retica, Aaron (10 December 2006). "Homophily". New York Times.
- Jiang, Yuexin; Bolnick, Daniel I.; Kirkpatrick, Mark (June 2013). "Assortative Mating in Animals". The American Naturalist 181 (6): E125–E138. doi:10.1086/670160. PMID 23669548. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- Lazarsfeld, P. F. and Merton, R. K. RONKEYLAF (1954). "Friendship as a Social Process: A Substantive and Methodological Analysis". In Freedom and Control in Modern Society, Morroe Berger, Theodore Abel, and Charles H. Page, eds. New York: Van Nostrand, 18–66.
- Marsden PV. 1988. Homogeneity in confiding relations. Soc. Networks 10:57–76
- Mark, N. P. (2003). "Culture and competition: Homophily and distancing explanations for cultural niches". American Sociological Review 68: 319–345. doi:10.2307/1519727.
- Choudhury, M. D (2010). ""Birds of a feather": Does user homophily impact information diffusion in social media". arXiv:1006.1702.
- Christakis, N. A; Fowler, J. H. (2007). "The spread of obesity in a large social network over 32 years" (PDF). The New England Journal of Medicine 357: 370–379. doi:10.1056/nejmsa066082.
- Centola, D; R, Willer; M, Macy (2005). "The emperor’s dilemma: A computational model of self-enforcing norms. American Journal of Sociology, 110, 1009–1040. Choudhury" (PDF). American Journal of Sociology 110: 1009–1040. doi:10.1086/427321.
- Mustafa, Yavas; Gönenç, Yücel (May 29, 2014). "Impact of Homophily on Diffusion Dynamics Over Social Networks" (PDF). Social Science Computer Review.
- Thomas Fent; Belinda Aparicio Diaz; Alexia Prskawetz (2013). "Family policies in the context of low fertility and social structure". Demographic Research 29 (37).