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Strong ties in a small world



This paper examines the celebrated "Strength of weak ties" theory of Granovetter(1973). We formalize the theory in terms of two hypotheses: one, for any threeplayers with two links present, the probability of a third link being present isincreasing in the strength of the two ties, and two, the removal of a weak tieincreases average distance in the network more than the removal of a strong tie. We test these hypotheses using data on the network of coauthorship amongeconomists. We find support for the hypothesis of transitivity of strong ties, but we reject thehypothesis that weak ties reduce distance more than strong ties do. We then identify two general features of networks which explain these findings:significant inequality in the distribution of connections across individuals andstronger ties among individuals who have more connections.

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