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Ego-Centered Networks and the Ripple Effect


  • M. E. J. Newman


Recent work has demonstrated that many social networks, and indeed many networks of other types also, have broad distributions of vertex degree. Here we show that this has a substantial impact on the shape of ego-centered networks, i.e., sets of network vertices that are within a given distance of a specified central vertex, the ego. This in turn affects concepts and methods based on ego-centered networks, such as snowball sampling and the Òripple effect.Ó In particular, we argue that oneÕs acquaintances, oneÕs immediate neighbors in the acquaintance network, are far from being a random sample of the population, and that this biases the numbers of neighbors two and more steps away. We demonstrate this concept using data drawn from academic collaboration networks, for which, as we show, current simple theories for the typical size of ego-centered networks give numbers that differ greatly from those measured in reality. We present an improved theoretical model which gives significantly better results.

Suggested Citation

  • M. E. J. Newman, 2001. "Ego-Centered Networks and the Ripple Effect," Working Papers 01-11-066, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-11-066

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    Social networks; ripple effect; random graphs; graph theory;

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