Not surprisingly, the most interesting sociological finding I heard at the annual ASA meetings this past weekend involved research into suburban life. More specifically, Weininger and Lareau looked at how middle-class parents choose where to live:
As they explained in their presentation, we might imagine these relatively educated and well-off families would look at all sorts of data regarding neighborhoods, compare their relative merits, and then choose one. Instead, they found these families would rely on limited vouching for particular locations from ties in their social networks – sometimes fairly weak ties – and then make decisions based on that. This could even occasionally lead to mistakes.
I look forward to hearing more about how this all works and what this leads to. There is interesting material to consider here including:
-What if there are conflicting network recommendations (either different preferred locations or different opinions on the same location)?
-How does the process change when the respondents do or do not have much local knowledge of the communities they are considering?
-Does this effect hold for middle-class residents of different racial and ethnic groups?
-Can networks help people move into more hetereogeneous locations or do they primarily help reinforce homogeneity?