Redrawing the “Color Line”: Examining Racial Homophily of Associative Networks in Social Media

Hedwig Lee, University of Washington
Nina Cesare, University of Washington
Tyler McCormick, University of Washington
Julia Morris, University of Washington
Ali Shojaie, University of Washington

Online social spaces such as Twitter are becoming increasingly salient social contexts for friendship formation. However, demographers have yet to analyze friendship formation and racial segregation in these contexts. In this paper, we examine racial friendship segregation on Twitter to better understand whether online spaces mirror offline racial segregation trends. Acknowledging past work on the role of structure and agency in friendship and social networks, we argue that Twitter serves to blur the roles of these forces in influencing friendship segregation because users actively create and are influenced by their own "structure." We generate representative samples of Twitter users and their friends and estimate the racial composition of users’ networks of mutual followers. We use these data to search for evidence of racial segregation within Twitter as a means of understanding whether race impacts network formation differently on Twitter than it does within offline networks.

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Presented in Session 37: Demography and Ethno-Racial Inequality I