Network Homogeneity, Social Isolation and Preferences for Redistribution across Societies

About this Session


Wed. 10.04.'24 17:05



Abstract :

The escalating economic inequality and the current sanitary crisis have threatened social cohesion among citizens. However, these consequences have been unevenly experienced across the social structure. The upper and intermediate classes, benefiting from privileged access to social resources, have shown resilience. Conversely, working-class families have faced deteriorating material conditions, leading to a heightened sense of marginalisation and increasing the demand for welfare support. Particularly, social resources through network ties have been suggested to have a direct link with an individual’s welfare through instrumental and expressive outcomes, such as providing information or help in moments of need. Consequently, inequalities in access to certain social positions (i.e. occupations) are translated into a lack of social resources beyond individual economic and cultural capital. Additionally, it has been argued that social isolation not only plays a role in terms of resources but given that higher levels of segregation can bolster opinions, it is argued that being isolated from other social classes can polarise attitudes mainly in the working and upper-middle classes. Employing data from the International Social Survey Programme – Social Networks (N=34,954), this research aims to understand to what extent the demand for redistribution is linked to social ties. First, ego-centred social networks are used to represent the degree of class-based homogeneity of social ties. Secondly, a set of questions is used to construct a common measure to capture the subjective experience of being socially isolated. The results of multilevel estimations show that being socially segregated (homogenous networks and perceived isolation) increases demand for redistribution. Additionally, this influence is conditional to social class, where the working and intermediate classes with highly homogeneous networks demand more governmental redistribution than the upper class. In contrast, the influence of perceived isolation is positive among the intermediate and upper classes but null in the working class, showing that being structurally segregated is not necessarily accompanied by feelings of isolation. At the macro level, as the current distribution of economic resources influences the opportunity structure, it has been hypothesised that income inequality could bolster the influence of social segregation on the demand for redistribution. However, cross-level interactions do not provide supporting evidence on this behalf. Finally, the consequences of structural and subjective social marginalisation on support for redistribution are discussed, as well as their implications on social cohesion and collective solidarity.