Whom do we lose? The case of dissimilarity in personal networks
Social Networks , Volume 65 p. 51- 62
Previous research finds that individuals tend to form ties with similar others much more often than with dissimilar others. However, we know relatively little about tie loss and to what extent this is driven by (dis)similarity. In this paper, we argue that ties to persons who are dissimilar with regard to gender, age, ethnicity, and education are lost faster than ties to similar persons – and we test three explanations for this faster decay of ties with dissimilar others: lack of meeting opportunities, preferences for similarity, and lower network embeddedness. To test these explanations, we analysed two waves of the Survey on the Social Networks of the Dutch (SSND, 2007, 2014). These SSND-waves contain comprehensive longitudinal panel data on ego networks of 441 respondents, who were interviewed about a wide range of relationships, their alters’ sociodemographic characteristics, where and when they met their alters, as well as how and whether they maintain these relationships. We modelled tie loss by event history analyses. Results show that ties to persons who were dissimilar are more likely to be lost faster, and that tie loss occurs mostly in the early years of a relationship. However, meeting opportunities, preferences for similarity, and network embeddedness are unable to explain why ties to dissimilar others are lost faster. We conclude that dissimilarity is a powerful driver of tie loss, and that more arguments and research are needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms.