What are the social causes and consequences of social networks across society and time? My scholarly work contributes to four major specialty areas: social networks, medical sociology, social stratification, and comparative historical sociology. It also extends the literature on marriage and family, education, work and occupations, social psychology, aging and life course, body, media, environment, and genetics.
I investigate three major research themes: how social networks produce inequalities in health and well-being, how social networks generate social stratification, and how social forces stratify social networks. The network-based concepts I analyze include accessed status (network members’ status), social capital, social cost, social support, social integration, reference group, social comparison, social cohesion, homophily and homogamy, and tie strength. The social stratifiers I study include age, gender, race/ethnicity, SES, and class. The major well-being outcomes I examine include status attainment, physical health, mental health, health information search, life satisfaction, lifestyle, body weight, genetics, treatment adherence, and environmental concerns.
Does who you know protect or hurt? My current work centers on a paradox: the puzzling double-edged (protective and detrimental) role of accessed status in the social dynamics of health and well-being. I propose social cost theory in contrast with social capital theory to explain this double-edged role. I also develop competing institutional explanations (collectivistic advantage, collectivistic disadvantage, inequality structure) to interpret the variation of this double-edged role by culture and society. In brief, nine of my studies suggest that accessed status is more likely to be protective (as social capital theory predicts) in more egalitarian societies but detrimental (as social cost theory expects) in more unequal societies.