Structural holes in social networks
Title: Structural holes in social networks
Citation: Journal of Economic Theory, 2007, 137, 1, 460-492
We consider a setting where every pair of players that undertake a transaction (e.g. exchange goods or information) creates a unit surplus. A transaction can take place only if the players involved have a connection. If the connection is direct the two players split the surplus equally, while if it is indirect then intermediate players also get an equal share of the surplus. Thus, individuals form links with others to create surplus, to gain intermediation rents, and to circumvent others who are trying to become intermediary. Our analysis clarifies the interplay between these forces in the process of strategic network formation. First, we show that, in the absence of capacity constraints on links, it leads to the emergence of a star network where a single agent acts as an intermediary for all transactions and enjoys significantly higher payoffs. Second, we study the implications of capacity constraints in the ability of agents to form links. In this case, distances between players must be long, which induces players who are “far off” to connect in order to avoid paying large intermediation rents. A cycle network then emerges, payoffs being equal across all players.
Subject: Networks; Network formation; Structural holes; Intermediation; C72; C78; D85
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