Associate Professor of Sociology
Affiliated Faculty, Center for Medicine, Health and Society, Asian Studies Program, and American Studies
What are the social causes and consequences of social networks across society and time?
Since the classic work of Emile Durkheim and Georg Simmel, there has been a century-long research tradition on the social causes and consequences of various aspects of social networks. Aiming to advance this tradition, my scholarly work connects and contributes to three specialty areas: social networks, medical sociology, and social stratification. 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 stratifiers shape social networks. The central network-based concepts I study include social capital, social comparison, social support, and social integration. The key social stratifiers I investigate include gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), and class. The major health and well-being outcomes I analyze include physical and mental health, health information search, life satisfaction, health lifestyle, and body weight.
My work centers on the role of accessed SES (i.e., network members’ SES) in the social dynamics of health and well-being, and examines competing theories including social capital theory and comparative reference group theory. In brief, six of my studies suggest that depending on its measurement, outcomes, and societal contexts, accessed SES can both protect and damage health and well-being, and can exert diverse—direct, indirect, mediating, and moderating—effects on health and well-being.
Also, I investigate health consequences of social support and social integration. Two studies demonstrate the dark side of receiving unsolicited job leads for mental health, its mechanisms, and its contingency on financial situation. Another study reports the varying positive health effects of social integration in the workplace across society. Furthermore, I examine social determinants of social networks. One study highlights the single-motherhood penalty in reaching high-quality social capital. Another study shows that educational homogamy is subject to political intervention over time. My personal website can be found at https://my.vanderbilt.edu/lijunsong/