SFB 504 discussion paper 05-24

Volker Stocké
Sonderforschungsbereich 504
L 13, 15, D-68131 Mannheim

Determinanten und Konsequenzen von Nonresponse in egozentrierten Netzwerkstudien

It is the main aim of egocentric network studies to include the embedding of actors into certain reference groups and to analyze the resulting effects. The realization of this aim makes it necessary to cover as completely as possible the characteristics of the relevant reference persons (alters) within the social context of the target persons (ego), which are important for these influences. The basis for this are either proxy responses given by ego about the alters' characteristics or self-reports obtained from the reference persons themselves. To what extent one can measure the complete reference group�s characteristics depends in the first approach on the ability and willingness of ego to answer proxy questions about the alters. In contrast, the use of the reference persons� self-reported characteristics require ego�s willingness to provide contact information as well as alters� willingness to take part in the interview. The present article examines, by means of a sample of elementary-school parents, the factors which determine the success of both types of operationalizations of reference-group influences. Analyzed factors are the egos� and alters� sociodemographic characteristics, the strength of the relationship between both groups, as well as indicators for the general willingness to answer questions. According to our results, neither the failure to obtain proxy information from ego nor the impossibility to acquire self reports of the alters are the result of a random process. In fact, the dropout probability varies significantly according to the target and reference persons� characteristics, and differs according to the strength of their ties as well as to the respondents� overall disposition toward nonresponse. The first consequence is that the for the analysis of reference group effects available size of the social networks differs according to the characteristics of ego. Secondly, the composition of the available sample of network persons has been found to be subject to a systematic selectivity in comparison to the population of alters.
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