Churning, power laws, and inequality in a spatial agent-based model of social networks

Jae Beum Cho, Yuri S. Mansury, Xinyue Ye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Amidst many previous network models lacking a spatial dimension, this paper proposes a dynamic agent-based model of social network formation that explicitly considers space. We find that varying the dynamics of agent interaction causes the emergence of differential degree distributions as well as nonlinear dynamics in social and spatial inequalities. The scale-free property of degree connectivity vanishes when tie formation dominates tie dissolution, with power laws re-emerging when tie dissolution is of equal strength or stronger than tie formation. Furthermore, we find a nonlinear relationship between network density and agent inequality in social resources. In particular, multiple phase transitions occur where the relationship is positive in one phase but negative in another. This suggests that, contrary to intuition, higher connectivity can have an adverse distributional impact by benefiting the already privileged. Critically, we find a tradeoff between agent inequality and spatial inequality where the geographic concentration of social resources accompanies a more equal distribution of connectivity. Finally, the disadvantage of agents with limited spatial reach is exacerbated as network density increases. Our results thus highlight the importance of distinguishing between social and spatial inequality in policymaking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-307
Number of pages33
JournalAnnals of Regional Science
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Social Sciences


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