Inequality, Social Networks, and Internet Use: Exploring the Implications of the Social Diversification Hypothesis
Keywords:social diversification hypothesis, inequality, Internet access, social network sites, social capital
The social diversification hypothesis (SDH) suggests that in multicultural societies Internet use can help mitigate structural inequalities in access to social resources. Whereas traditionally disadvantaged groups are predicted to use the Internet to expand and diversify their social networks, advantaged groups use it to maintain existing connections. The present study investigates this central prediction of the SDH by examining the relationship between Internet and social network site (SNS) use and inequalities in network size and diversity based on race, sex, and education among a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. The results largely contradict the SDH. Internet and SNS use were associated with greater network-based inequalities stemming from education. The relationships between education and indicators of network size and diversity were stronger among Internet users than non-users and stronger among SNS users than Internet-only users. Network inequalities directly related to race, sex, and education were also explored.
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