Recent Posts

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Americans' Reported Isolation "The Product of an Artifact"?

Sociologists debate: Are Americans really isolated?
A widely publicized analysis of social network size, which reported dramatically increasing social isolation when it was published in 2006, has sparked an academic debate in the August issue of the American Sociological Review (ASR), the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association.

The 2006 report by sociologists Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin and Matthew E. Brashears found a near tripling in reports of Americans' social isolation—the percentage who said they discussed important matters with no one—between 1985 and 2004. The increase in social isolation was reduced markedly by sophisticated modeling of the data, yet a very significant decrease in social connection to close friends and family remained. Data underlying the findings came from the 1985 and 2004 General Social Surveys (GSS), collected by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) and funded by the National Science Foundation. The GSS has been fielded since 1972.

But sociologist Claude S. Fischer of the University of California, Berkeley, calls the research team's findings highly implausible based on the immense scale of the reported change, anomalies in the GSS data and contrary results in data on other types of network ties.

"Results that seem to be too good, too strong or too stark to be true probably are, as seems to be the case in this instance," said Fischer. "The survey question used in 2004 to measure social network size yielded results that were so inconsistent with other data and so internally anomalous and implausible that they are almost surely the product of an artifact."

Powered by ScribeFire.


Post a Comment