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Who is dropped and why? Methodological and substantive accounts for network loss


High rates of egocentric network turnover are frequently observed but not well explained. About 1,000 respondents to the UCNets survey named an average of 10 names in each of two waves a year apart. Consistent with prior studies, respondents in wave 2 failed to relist about half of the names they provided in wave 1. Asked why, respondents explained that they had forgotten the alter for about 40 percent of the missing names. Other common answers, such as no "occasion... to be in touch," also suggest that the true rate of alters being dropped is probably under 20 percent. Multilevel logit models identified the predictors of alters being dropped (neither relisted nor forgotten) versus retained. Immediate kin were likeliest to be retained and roommates, coworkers, and acquaintances to be dropped. Alters who provided companionship, confiding, advice, and emergency help were especially likely to be retained, as were those to whom respondents felt close. Little about the respondents themselves affected drop rates: having moved recently, having a close friend die, or having had an important relationship break up. Results are consistent with the argument that a tie's degree of constraint (notably being close family) and its balance of rewards determine the likelihood of it being dropped or demoted.

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