Associate Professor of Sociology
Director of Graduate Studies
Director of Graduate Studies, Affiliated Faculty, Center for Medicine, Health and Society, Asian Studies Program, and American Studies
What are the causes and consequences of social networks across society and time?
Since the classic work of Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, and Ferdinand Tönnies, there has been a thirteen-decades-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 four specialty areas: social networks, medical sociology, social stratification, and comparative historical sociology. 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 accessed status (network members’ status), social capital, social cost, reference groups, social comparison, social support, social integration, tie strength, homophily and homogamy, and social cohesion. The key social stratifiers I analyze include gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), and class. The major well-being outcomes I examine include status attainment, physical and mental health, health information search, life satisfaction, health lifestyle, body weight, medical treatment adherence, environmental concern, and genetics.
Does who you know protect or hurt? My current work centers on 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 protective (as social capital theory predicts) in more egalitarian and individualistic societies but detrimental (as social cost theory expects) in more unequal and collectivistic societies.