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Reconsidering “community liberated”: How class and the national context shape personal support networks

Abstract

The “community liberated” thesis has been influential in describing contemporary social support systems. Specifically, “community liberated” argues that people do not seek support in their immediate neighborhood but rather entertain a network of far-flung ties to support providing alters. This paper uses personal network data from six countries – Australia, Germany, the US, Austria, Hungary and Italy – to evaluate this argument and shows that the degree of liberation of one’s community is strongly linked to one’s socioeconomic status – specifically, one’s education level. Additionally, we describe strong country-level heterogeneity in the spatial dynamics of personal support networks and find national contexts to be moderating the effect of education on community liberation, especially in Italy and Hungary, thus suggesting network geographic dispersion to be linked to national economic structures and labor markets. The paper thus elucidates the effect of two different, yet related social contexts on personal networks: the class context and the national context.

Publication
Social Networks