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Nov. 14 | Social Instability or Social Change: Network Tie Change and Outcomes in 56 Middle Schools

  • 509 Knox Hall 606 West 122nd Street New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)

WHEN: Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: Knox Hall 509, 606 W 122nd Street

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch and light refreshments will be provided. All are welcome!

Maintaining the same social ties over time may provide social support and predictability that enhance well-being. At the same time, keeping the same social ties may limit the formation of new avenues for information and action that may also prove beneficial. What, then, is the relationship between change in social ties and well-being? This paper uses two waves of saturated network data from 56 middle schools (over 21,000 students) from an anti-bullying field experiment to address the impact of network change on individual well-being. Change in an individual’s ego-network over time is associated with negative individual-level well-being outcomes. This is true even when network change is driven by the formation of new ties. We test a number of mechanisms by which network change might lead to worse outcomes. We leverage the experimental design of the experiment to examine the effect of the intervention on the stability of social ties between schools and within schools. While the experimental treatment destabilizes the networks of those most directly involved compared to matched kids in control schools, it increases the stability of the networks of those one-step removed from the treatment group, leading—on aggregate—to an increase in stability within treatment schools compared to control schools. We discuss the results in light of evidence regarding the success of the intervention at the school level, and propose that tie stability might be thought of as a pro-social force in social groups. We argue that tie change should be considered a unique social process, and we discuss the implications of these findings for scholars of social capital and social movements.     

Hana Shepherd is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.  Her work focuses on three areas: Social networks, norms, and group cultures; Cognitive and social psychological accounts of culture; and on the relationship between organizations and inequality.  Shepherd uses diverse methods including network analysis, lab and field-based experiments, interviews, and archival research. She is particularly interested in various attempts at social change including social engineering, social movements, utopian scheming, and policy.  Prior to joining the department, Professor Shepherd was a postdoctoral associate and lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Psychology at Princeton University.

The Networks and Time seminar is part of the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Lecture Series sponsored by INCITE (Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics).

Knox Hall is located at the intersection of West 122nd Street and Broadway (606 West 122nd Street, New York, NY 10027).

For inquiries about Networks and Time, please contact Mark Hoffman ( or Eugene Grey (