School friendship networks, homophily and multiculturalism: evidence from European countries

Abstract

This paper investigates the determinants of school friendship networks among adolescents, proposing a model of network formation and estimating it using a sample of about 10,000 secondary school students in four countries: England, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. We test the idea that networks arise according to homophily along many characteristics (gender, school achievement and ethnic and cultural backgrounds), and assess the relative importance of each factor. In addition to gender, we find that country of origin, generational status and religion predict friendship for foreign-born students. For individuals born in the survey country, ties depend on a broader set of factors, including socioeconomic status and school achievement. In sum, homophilic preferences go considerably beyond ethnicity. Multiculturalism, which gives prominence to ethnic backgrounds, risks emphasising the differences in that dimension at the expense of affinity in others.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/US/01/27/pennsyation

  2. 2.

    This way of operationalizing socioeconomic conditions takes inspiration from the PISA survey (OECD 2017), which collects information on students’ parental education in years, highest parental occupation and number of home possessions (including books). The CILS4EU survey did not ask students the number of years spent by their parents in education but only their highest level of educational attainment.

  3. 3.

    The ceiling on the number of nominations is a possible limitation of the data since it may prevent identification of an individual’s entire reference group. It also means that students’ weak ties (i.e. ties that reflect less frequent, often instrumental relationships) are not considered. About 94% and 97% of students were linked to less than five friends at wave 1 and wave 2, respectively; 62% and 69% indicated fewer than five names.

  4. 4.

    Additional estimates by gender are show in Appendix A.1.1. The role of socioeconomic factors is stronger for males than for females, and the coefficient on second-generation immigration status is significant for males only.

  5. 5.

    Variations in sample size are due to unanswered survey questions.

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Correspondence to Chiara Rapallini.

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Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2nd Florence-Konstanz workshop on Behavioural and Experimental Social Sciences (University of Florence) and the 2nd International CILS4EU User Conference (Utrecht University). We thank participants at these meetings, Paolo Brunori, Editor Klaus F. Zimmermann and two anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions. Aldo Rustichini thanks the National Science Foundation for the grant SES 1728056, “Rules based policies, and Intelligence in Strateic Behavior”.

Responsible editor: Klaus F. Zimmermann

Appendix

Appendix

A.1 Additional estimates

A.1.1 Estimates by gender

Table 12 Benchmark estimates by gender

A.1.2 First-stage regressions

Table 13 Estimates (cultural traits, first stage)
Table 14 Consistency check (cultural traits, first stage)

A.2 Questionnaire items

The CILS4EU questionnaire is structured in several sections. Our variables were constructed from information assessed in the sections named ‘Youth Main’ (YM), ‘Youth Classmates’ (YC) and ‘Youth Parents’ (YP).

  • YM-1 Are you a boy or a girl?

  • YM-2 When were you born?

  • YM-3 In which country were you born?

  • YM-4 How old were you when you moved to <survey country>?

  • YM-19 Which grades did you get in the last school year in the following subjects?

    • (a) Mathematics

    • (b) <Survey country language>

  • YM-27 Did your mother complete university? [Yes; No; Don’t know]

  • YM-33 Did your father complete university? [Yes; No; Don’t know]

  • YM-63 In a family, who should do the following?

    • (a) Earn money [Mostly the man; Mostly the woman; Both about the same]

    • (b) Clean the house [Mostly the man; Mostly the woman; Both about the same]

  • YM-66 How strongly do you feel <survey country member>? [Very strongly; Fairly strongly; Not very strongly; Not at all strongly]

  • YM-71 What is your religion? [No religion; Buddhism; Christianity; Christianity: Catholic; Christianity: Protestant; Hinduism; Islam; Judaism; Sikh; Other: specify]

  • YM-75 How much do you agree or disagree with each of these statements?

    • (a) The <survey country> people should be open to the customs and traditions of immigrants [Strongly agree; Agree; Neither agree nor disagree; Disagree; Strongly disagree]

    • (b) Immigrants should do all they can to keep their customs and traditions [Strongly agree; Agree; Neither agree nor disagree; Disagree; Strongly disagree]

  • YM-95 How many rooms are there in your home (not counting kitchen and bathroom)?

  • YM-96 About how many books are there in your home? [0-25; 26-100; 101-200; 201-500; More than 500]

  • YC-1 Who are your best friends in class? Here you may write down no more than five names.

  • YC-2 Who is your best friend in class? Here you may write down no more than one number.

  • YC-9 Which classmates live within a 5 minute walk from your home?

  • YP-9 How strongly do you feel <survey country member>? [Very strongly; Fairly strongly; Not very strongly; Not at all strongly]

A.3 Variables description

Dependent variables and controls for confounding factors

  • Undirected link (five best friends). Binary: 1 if a friendship nomination from Ego to Alter is reciprocated, as assessed by question YC-1.

  • Undirected link (very best friends). Binary: 1 if a friendship nomination from Ego to Alter is reciprocated, as assessed by question YC-2.

  • Shares of students with same characteristics. Share of Ego’s (Alter’s) classmates similar to her in each characteristic considered.

  • Five minutes distance. Binary: 1 if Ego and Alter live within a five-minute walking distance, as assessed by question YC-9.

  • Number of common friends. Number of friends that Ego and Alter share, as assessed by question YC-1.

Demographic characteristics

  • Same country of origin; Both first/second/third-generation immigrants. The information used to construct these variables was retrieved from previous work by Dollmann and Konstanze (2016).

  • Same gender; Same religion; Difference: age; Difference: years of residence. Variables were constructed from the answers to questions YM-1, YM-2, YM-3, YM-4, and YM-71.

Socioeconomic characteristics

  • Both have a parent with a university degree. Binary: 1 if both Ego and Alter have at least one parent who completed tertiary education, as assessed by questions YM-27 and YM-33.

  • Difference: number of books. Absolute difference in the number of books in Ego’s and Alter’s houses, as assessed by question YM-95 .

  • Difference: number of rooms. Absolute difference in the number of rooms in Ego’s and Alter’s houses, as assessed by question YM-96.

Normative beliefs and subjective integration

  • Both think men should be the breadwinners. Binary: 1 if both Ego and Alter answered ‘mostly the man’ to question YM-63a.

  • Both think women should clean the house. Binary: 1 if both Ego and Alter answered ‘mostly the woman’ to question YM-63b.

  • Both think natives should open to immigrants’ customs. Binary: 1 if both Ego and Alter answered ‘strongly agree’ to question YM-75a.

  • Both think immigrants should keep their customs. Binary: 1 if both Ego and Alter answered ‘strongly agree’ to question YM-75b.

  • Subjective integration: both strong. Binary: 1 if both Ego and Alter answered ‘very strongly’ to question YM-66.

  • Subjective integration: both weak. Binary: 1 if both Ego and Alter answered ‘not very strongly’ or ‘not at all strongly’ to question YM-66.

Normative beliefs and subjective integration (instruments)

  • Men should be the breadwinners (Ego and Ego’s IFs); Men should be the breadwinners (Alter and Alter’s IFs). Binary: 1 if both Ego (Alter) and the majority of Alter’s friends who are not friends of Ego (Ego’s friends who are not friends of Alter) answered ‘mostly the man’ to question YM-63a.

  • Women should clean the house (Ego and Ego’s IFs); Women should clean the house (Alter and Alter’s IFs). Binary: 1 if both Ego (Alter) and the majority of Alter’s friends who are not friends of Ego (Ego’s friends who are not friends of Alter) answered ‘mostly the woman’ to question YM-63b.

  • Natives should open to immigrants’ customs (Ego and Ego’s IFs); Natives should open to immigrants’ customs (Alter and Alter’s IFs). Binary: 1 if both Ego (Alter) and the majority of Alter’s friends who are not friends of Ego (Ego’s friends who are not friends of Alter) answered ‘strongly agree’ to question YM-75a.

  • Immigrants should keep their customs (Ego and Ego’s IFs); Immigrants should keep their customs (Alter and Alter’s IFs). Binary: 1 if both Ego (Alter) and the majority of Alter’s friends who are not friends of Ego (Ego’s friends who are not friends of Alter) answered ‘strongly agree’ to question YM-75b.

  • Subjective integration: strong (Ego and Ego’s IFs); Subjective integration: strong (Alter and Alter’s IFs). Binary: 1 if both Ego (Alter) and the majority of Alter’s friends who are not friends of Ego (Ego’s friends who are not friends of Alter) answered ‘very strongly’ to question YM-66.

  • Subjective integration: weak (Ego and Ego’s IFs); Subjective integration: weak (Alter and Alter’s IFs). Binary: 1 if both Ego (Alter) and the majority of Alter’s friends who are not friends of Ego (Ego’s friends who are not friends of Alter) answered ‘not very strongly’ or ‘not at all strongly’ to question YM-66.

  • Subjective integration: strong (Ego and Alter’s parent); Subjective integration: strong (Alter and Ego’s parent). Binary: 1 if both Ego (Alter) and Alter’s parent (Ego’s parent) answered ‘very strongly’ to questions YM-66 and YP-9.

  • Subjective integration: weak (Ego and Alter’s parent); Subjective integration: weak (Alter and Ego’s parent). Binary: 1 if both Ego (Alter) and Alter’s parent (Ego’s parent) answered ‘not very strongly’ or ‘not at all strongly’ to questions YM-66 and YP-9.

School grades

  • Math grade: both higher than class median. Binary: 1 if both Ego’s and Alter’s grades in mathematics (as assessed by question YM-19a) are above the class median value.

  • Math grade: both lower than class median. Binary: 1 if both Ego’s and Alter’s grades in mathematics (as assessed by question YM-19a) are below the class median value.

  • SCL grade: both higher than class median. Binary: 1 if both Ego’s and Alter’s grades in <survey country language> (as assessed by question YM-19b) are above the class median value.

  • SCL grade: both lower than class median. Binary: 1 if both Ego’s and Alter’s grades in <survey country language> (as assessed by question YM-19b) are below the class median value.

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Campigotto, N., Rapallini, C. & Rustichini, A. School friendship networks, homophily and multiculturalism: evidence from European countries. J Popul Econ (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-020-00819-w

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Keywords

  • Friendship
  • Homophily
  • Immigration
  • Networks
  • Social cohesion

JEL Classification

  • D85
  • J15
  • Z13