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In addition to the strong tie data described in the McPherson,
Smith-Lovin, and Brashears 2006 paper, there is also some weaker tie
data that has been collected by Killworth, McCarty, Bernard, Johnsen,
and Shelley (but it's not GSS data). From their data they can estimate
the distribution of the number of acquaintances in the US population.
It's not the same as face to face contact, but it's something.
For more on what they did you can see:
McCarty, Killworth, Bernard, Johnsen, and Shelley (2001) "Comparing two
methods for estimating network size." Human Organization, 60, 28-39.
They were also nice enough to share their data with us, which we
re-analyzed. Among other things, we got a slightly different estimate
for the acquaintanceship distribution. For more on what we did you can see:
Zheng, Salganik, and Gelman (2006) "How many people do you know in
prison?: Using count data to estimate social structure in networks."
Journal of the American Statistical Association. 101, 409-423.
Our estimates for the distribution of acquaintanceship volume are
available from my website:
Good luck with your project,
Miller McPherson wrote:
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> Just an echo of Lynn's response. I tried for a decade to get NSF to
>fund just the GSS question on core networks, and finally Lynn and I got
>the money in 2002. It would be nice to have data on more subtle and
>weaker ties, but just the core stuff costs over 250K, which strains
>sociology's NSF program budget. One reason that I decided to title the
>ASR paper so aggressively ("Social Isolation in America") was to try to
>get some notice into the public consciousness that social networks are
>studied by people other than the computer scientists and physicists.
> So, I guess what I'm doing here is to take full responsibility for
>the "damage" caused by our research (cf. discussion on this list) due to
>the title. I hope that the caution expressed in the paper itself stands
>up to scientific scrutiny. And if not, I hope that the increased
>attention will allow somebody else to find it out quickly and
>productively. There are some signs already that social scientists are
>getting a little more of the attention that they deserve for these
>On Thu, 27 Jul 2006, Richard Larson wrote:
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>>In my research at MIT, I need to find a credible histogram of the
>>frequency of human (face to face) daily contacts for a representative
>>sample of the USA. Example: 10 % of the population interact with 5
>>or fewer people per day. 5% interact with over 100. etc. An
>>'interaction' can be a transaction with a sales clerk, selling a
>>subway token, having breakfast with your spouse, meeting with a
>>While I have explored social network literature, I can't seem to find
>>something this simple and yet fundamental. Are you aware of such
>>Thanks for your help!
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>Miller McPherson * *
>Professor of Sociology ******
>University of Arizona *
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