Segregated in Social Space
The Spatial Structure of Acquaintanceship Networks


With deepening cleavages on several social dimensions, social fragmentation has become a major concern across the social sciences. Despite these concerns, however, we know little about how "weak" relationships, which are theorized to span across group-boundaries and therefore essential for social integration, are distributed in the contemporary US. This paper proposes a spatial approach to study the segregation pattern of weak ties in societies. A statistical model is developed and fitted to a battery of questions regarding acquaintanceship ties in the 2006 General Social Survey. Results show that "minority" and "majority" statuses occupy distinct areas of the estimated social space. Further, among the thirteen analyzed social groups, gay and lesbian people were the least segregated group in 2006, implying that individuals with very different network compositions had similar probabilities to know someone who is gay. Lastly, contradicting previous findings that ideology and religiosity are segregating acquaintanceship networks to an extent that rivals race, it is found that race is, by far, the most dominant cleavage that shapes the distribution of these relationships.

Keywords: social space, network segregation, weak ties, social distance