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An Examination of Capital in a Network of People Who Inject Drugs

Ian N Duncan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Grounded in the theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu, this dissertation examines how various forms of capital are generated and exchanged in a community of People Who Inject Drugs (PWID). Using multiple samples of PWID in Puerto Rico and a variety of quantitative methods, I shed light on how capital is important in the context of minimizing risk and viral infection in injection drug use.Chapter 1 lays out the theoretical framework for this dissertation. Chapter 2 details the multiple datasets that are examined and, in some cases, compared and contrasted. Chapter 3 employs regression techniques to study how the size of one’s co-injection network relates to and shapes their behaviors when it comes to accessing needles from high- vs low-risk sources, and also examines how knowing one’s own infection status on the Hepatitis C virus can influence the likelihood that PWID will attempt to limit co-injection to partners of concordant status, while also teasing out the influence of rurality on this relationship. Results suggest that PWID with larger co-injection networks are more likely to use riskier needle sources, and that only PWID in urban areas are likely to limit co-injection to partners of concordant status.Chapter 5 employs Exponential Random Graph Models to study which individual-level attributes, such as gender, residence, or age, influence the likelihood that two members of a PWID community have a relationship with one another. Furthermore, I examine the concept of “fields,” as proposed by Bourdieu, by differentiating between relationships based on sharing needles, sharing other injection-related equipment like cookers, and trusting one another. Results indicate variation in which individual-level attributes matter depending upon the field, or relationship of interest.Chapter 6 employs simulation techniques to test the long-term saturation of Hepatitis C infection in a PWID community. Here I experiment with counterfactual populations – networks of PWID that look and behave differently from the real-world network. Results indicate changes to any single attribute in the population – either the distribution of this attribute in the population, or how members of classes within it interact, is largely insufficient to yield meaningful changes to Hepatitis C rates.

Subject Area

Sociology|Latin American Studies|Social psychology|Public health|Behavioral psychology|American studies|Health sciences|Social research|Clinical psychology|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Duncan, Ian N, "An Examination of Capital in a Network of People Who Inject Drugs" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI22589319.