All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Belinda Needham

Advisory Committee Members

Renato Corbetta

Sean-Shong Hwang

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2012

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Recent work in social network analysis has focused on the spread of health behaviors, including smoking, obesity, and exercise, through social networks (Fowler and Christakis 2007, 2008; Centola 2011). Studies suggest that health behaviors are often "contagious," particularly when respondents share similar characteristics, such as race, education, and BMI. In this study, I extend recent work on the spread of health behavior through social networks to a hard-to-study population - heroin users. I aim to compare the frequency of injection (FOI) for dyads of users who share the same race, education, or age (i.e., homophilous ties) versus those who do not share those characteristics (i.e., heterophilous ties). If this population is similar to non-using populations observed in previous studies, connected drug users who share sociodemographic characteristics should also share more similar frequency of injection (FOI). Results show that FOI is distributed through both homophilous and heterophilous ties. Demographic characteristics of individual nodes (i.e. race, age, or education level), is a better determinant of peer influence than dyadic characteristics (i.e. demographic similarity of peers). Disaggregating respondents by race, I show that Hispanics tend to be share similar FOI with their peers (of any race), while blacks do not; I also show that whites share FOI only with peers who are of a different race. Lower-educated users tend to share FOI more often with their peers (of any education) than higher-educated users do. Younger users also tend to share FOI with their peers more so than older users. Future research should check for aggregation bias. Theoretical developments in explaining group differences in the diffusion of health behavior are needed.

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