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April 24th | Agency and structure in the genesis of network segregation (with Kevin Lewis)

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

When: Wednesday, April 24th, 12:00-1:30p.m.
Where: Knox Hall 509, 606 West 122nd Street

Agency and structure in the genesis of network segregation

Relationship data are generally static; human interactions are not. Because of this discrepancy, it is challenging to distinguish observed patterns in relational data from the underlying processes that generate them. In this paper, I examine the genesis of one such pattern—homogeneity, or interpersonal segregation—using a large dataset of online dating site interactions. Unlike past research on established partnerships, I focus on the first moments of contact between strangers. First, even within this narrow empirical window, I document incipient patterns of segregation by race, income, education, and religion. Second, I disambiguate patterns and in-group preferences and find that inferences about the latter are highly contingent on a variety of (typically unacknowledged) methodological decisions. Third, I provide an integrated portrait of how choices vary among different categories of users in different structural positions and at different moments of interaction—and draw on these results to illustrate the complex interplay of choice and constraint that undergirds mating decisions.

Kevin Lewis is an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego. He received his B.A. in sociology and philosophy (mathematics minor) from UC San Diego and his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University.  Like all social network analysts, his work examines the complex web of relationships—platonic, familial, professional, romantic—in which individual behavior is embedded. He is particularly interested in the factors that lead people to form and maintain social ties, the circumstances under which network ties do (and do not) give rise to peer influence, and the (sometimes counterintuitive) relationship between these types of “micro-level” dynamics and “macro-level” outcomes like racial segregation and cultural diffusion. While his research has relied heavily on online data sources—from Facebook to online dating to Internet activism—he is less interested in the Internet per se than in understanding what these “digital footprints” tell us about society and human interaction more broadly.  His work has been published in a variety of sociological and interdisciplinary journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sociological Science, and Social Networks.

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

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

Knox Hall is located on West 122nd Street between Broadway and Claremont (606 West 122nd Street, New York, NY 10027).

For inquiries about Networks and Time, please contact Berenike Schott ( or Eugene Grey (