Strength matters: Tie strength as a causal driver of networks’ information benefits

Minjae Kim*, Roberto M. Fernandez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Studies of social networks have often taken the existence of a social tie as a proxy for the transmission of information. However, other studies of social networks in the labor market propose that the likelihood of information transmission might depend on strength of the tie; and that tie strength is a potentially important source of the tie's value. After all, even if job seekers have social ties to those who have valuable job information, the seekers will gain little information benefit when the ties do not actually transmit the information. This paper clarifies the conditions under which social ties might provide information benefits. We use a survey vignette experiment and ask MBA students about their likelihood of relaying job information via strong ties (to friends) or weak ties (to acquaintances), holding constant the structural locations spanned by the tie and job seekers' fit with the job. The results support the claim that strength of tie has a causal effect on the chances of information transmission: potential referrers are more likely to relay job information to their friends than to acquaintances. The larger implication of these findings is that whatever benefits there might be to using weak ties to reach distant non-redundant information during job search, these benefits need to be considered against the likely fact that people connected via weak ties are less likely to actually share information about job opportunities than are people to whom the job seeker is strongly tied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-281
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science Research
Volume65
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Labor market
  • Referral
  • Social networks
  • Tie strength
  • Vignette experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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