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Journal Article

Measuring reciprocity: Double sampling, concordance, and network construction


Ready,  Elspeth
Department of Human Behavior Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Ready, E., & Power, E. A. (2021). Measuring reciprocity: Double sampling, concordance, and network construction. Network Science, 2021, 1-16. doi:10.1017/nws.2021.18.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-C884-0
Reciprocity—the mutual provisioning of support/goods—is a pervasive feature of social life. Directed networks provide a way to examine the structure of reciprocity in a community. However, measuring social networks involves assumptions about what relationships matter and how to elicit them, which may impact observed reciprocity. In particular, the practice of aggregating multiple sources of data on the same relationship (e.g., “double-sampled” data, where both the “giver” and “receiver” are asked to report on their relationship) may have pronounced impacts on network structure. To investigate these issues, we examine concordance (ties reported by both parties) and reciprocity in a set of directed, double-sampled social support networks. We find low concordance in people’s responses. Taking either the union (including any reported ties) or the intersection (including only concordant ties) of double-sampled relationships results in dramatically higher levels of reciprocity. Using multilevel exponential random graph models of social support networks from 75 villages in India, we show that these changes cannot be fully explained by the increase in the number of ties produced by layer aggregation. Respondents’ tendency to name the same people as both givers and receivers of support plays an important role, but this tendency varies across contexts and relationships type. We argue that no single method should necessarily be seen as the “correct” choice for aggregation of multiple sources of data on a single relationship type. Methods of aggregation should depend on the research question, the context, and the relationship in question.