Getting support in polarized societies: Income, social networks, and socioeconomic context

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Abstract

This paper explores how unequal resources and social and economic polarization affects the size of social networks and their use to access resources. We argue that individual resource position generates divergent expectations with regard to the impact of polarization on the size of networks on one hand, and their usefulness for accessing resources on the other. Social and economic polarization encourages reliance on informal networks, but those at the bottom of the social structure are forced to rely on more extensive networks than the wealthy to compensate for their isolated and underprivileged position. At the same time, social and economic polarization limits the resources the poor can access through their networks. We provide evidence consistent with these propositions, based on data derived from the International Social Survey Programme 2001 ''Social Networks'' dataset combined with contextual information on the levels of economic inequality in particular countries along with whether they experienced postcommunism.

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Letki, N., & Mieriņa, I. (2015). Getting support in polarized societies: Income, social networks, and socioeconomic context. Social Science Research, 49(1), 217–233. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.08.002

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