Emergence of segregation in evolving social networks

Adam Douglas Henry, Paweł Prałat, Cun Quan Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


In many social networks, there is a high correlation between the similarity of actors and the existence of relationships between them. This paper introduces a model of network evolution where actors are assumed to have a small aversion from being connected to others who are dissimilar to themselves, and yet no actor strictly prefers a segregated network. This model is motivated by Schelling's [Schelling TC (1969) Models of segregation. Am Econ Rev 59:488-493] classic model of residential segregation, and we show that Schelling's results also apply to the structure of networks; namely, segregated networks always emerge regardless of the level of aversion. In addition, we prove analytically that attribute similarity among connected network actors always reaches a stationary distribution, and this distribution is independent of network topology and the level of aversion bias. This research provides a basis for more complex models of social interaction that are driven in part by the underlying attributes of network actors and helps advance our understanding of why dysfunctional social network structures may emerge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8605-8610
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 24 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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