Date of this Version
Objective: Social integration is a foundational feature of society that influences individual-level outcomes. However, as our social worlds increase in complexity, integration becomes difficult to precisely measure. Contributing to research on social integration, this dissertation: (1) develops more precise ways to measure social integration, (2) identifies who is socially integrated, and (3) explores which social ties have the most influence on social integration.
Study 1: The first study aims to measure social integration more precisely by establishing a network structure and set of measures that utilize personal and associational ties with ego network data. Defined as personal affiliation networks (PAN), this study identifies 15 measures capturing unique aspects of PANs, bridging personal and associational ties.
Study 2: Pairing the methodological framework from Study 1 with the 2006 National Voluntary Association Study (NVAS), Study 2: (1) describes the distribution of, and the relationship between the PAN measures and (2) identifies ego-level characteristics associated with social integration in PANs. This study identifies that established differences in integration across demographic groups do not always hold when using more nuanced integration measures. Rather, I find that associational ties can supplement personal ties, washing out many group differences; concluding that tie characteristics of alters may be more influential for individual integration than ego characteristics alone.
Study 3: Study 3 further explores the role that alters have on social integration, identifying: (1) who bridges the personal and associational spaces of individuals and (2) who has the most influence on individual social integration. This study shows that spouses and stronger ties have the highest influence on social integration. High integrating alters also share more social contexts with egos, specifically those that bridge personal and associational spaces have more influence on social integration overall.
Conclusion: This dissertation demonstrates the importance of incorporating personal and associational ties within the measurement of social integration. Higher precision in measures of social integration yield important benefits for understanding complexities of social connectivity and its consequences for individuals.
Advisor: Jeffrey A. Smith, Ph.D.