SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 165
Measuring ego-centered networks is an especially time-expensive endeavor. However, to be included in multi-thematic surveys, parsimony is needed instead of following a maximizing strategy. Therefore, one pressing questions is, whether and which type of parsimonious data collection produces what losses of information. We address these questions by comparing three different, but closely related operationalizations of ego-centered networks in three different surveys: the German Socio-Economic Panel Study as a multi-thematic large-scale survey, IDUN as a small study designed as a single-purpose instrument to measure egocentered networks in great detail, and the "Minipanel" as something in between these two. Different setup parameters are the number and type of name generators and descriptors of alteri and a numerical limitation of naming ties. We look specifically whether there are effects on the size of the networks, the composition of networks, andthe sociostructural differences with regard to availability of positive aspects of social networks, especially different types of social support. Additionally, we examine the differences between effects of network variables on perceived satisfaction in the surveys. Among others, and above the highly expectable differences in network size, we find an effect of different operationalizations on the network composition. Compared to IDUN, GSOEP produces a considerable overestimation of family ties and a considerable underestimation of relations stemming from school, vocational training and leisure time. We show that specific strategies of parsimony not only lead to losses of information and distortions of network characteristics but can lead in addition to different conclusions about the availability of social capital.
Social networks network measurement ego-centered networks social relations name generators social capital social support