Panel Paper: The Emergence of Civic Engagement Networks: Microprocesses and Macro Outcomes

Friday, November 8, 2013 : 2:15 PM
Washington (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Juliet Musso and Christopher Weare, University of Southern California
The goal of many reforms intending to increase citizen participation in governance is to increase local relational networks. Much of the research on civic associations has highlighted the importance of such network relationships to organizational and individual level policy outcomes. For example, network-based social capital is argued to promote the development of community capacity (Chaskin et. al, 2001), mediation of mass demands with elites (Putnam, 2005), and facilitation of collective action (Diani and McAdam 2003). On the individual level, networks play a role in promoting political participation and efficacy (Putnam, 2005). Less is known, however, about the manner in which local institutional reforms intended to promote democratic participation in the policy process lead to the emergence of community networks. In this paper we examine this emergence of civic engagement networks with the use of exponential random graph models.  These models assume that observed networks are the long run result of a series of micro-level decisions to establish or sever actor level relationships. At the same time these models enable the researcher to control for endogenous network effects. Work on network emergence suggests that a range of factors drive these micro choices, including homophily, proximity, preferential attachment, strategic advantage, stocks of social capital and community leadership. We estimate a model composed of these explanatory factors on whole network data of the relationships between community representing civic organizations in the city of Los Angeles.  The results indicate that there are weak but persistent forces that promote SES-level homophily and status seeking in micro-level network choices.  These micro-level choices lead to macro-level network structures that disproportionately advantage community organizations that represent higher SES neighborhoods.