From Social Revival to Social Isolation: Network Dynamics during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Their Consequences for Social, Economic, and Health Inequalities

Awarded Scholars:
Brea Perry, Indiana University
Bernice Pescosolido, Indiana University
Heather Francis, Indiana University
Project Date:
Jan 2021
Award Amount:
$161,499

Cofunded with the JPB Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession have disrupted many aspects of social life, including everyday interactions family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. Societal fault lines have exacerbated these impacts, disproportionately affecting the most disadvantaged groups. Under such conditions, social ties and social networks can help people to cope with stressful situations and can improve wellbeing. But the pandemic, by increasing poverty, precarity, and marginality, may negatively affect social networks and network-mediated outcomes. This raises questions about how social inequality and social interactions are coevolving during the crisis, and how they interact to shape health and wellbeing. This research project will examine the role of personal community networks in mitigating the adverse consequences of the pandemic. The investigators have three key aims. First, they will describe COVID-related changes in social interactions and in the characteristics of personal networks and for different racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Next, they will examine whether social interaction and personal social network characteristics moderate the pandemic’s impact on social, economic, and health outcomes. Finally, they will identify the characteristics of ties that are activated to provide support during a national crisis, and whether such help-seeking decisions affect outcomes. They will build on the existing Person to Person (P2P) Health Interview Study that collected a first wave of data in 2019 and a second in the beginning months of the pandemic (from late March through May 2020). The investigators will collect a third wave of data in March- June 2021, allowing them to assess the social, economic and health consequences of the pandemic over the longer term, and to track social network dynamics at different stages to evaluate how support processes evolve as individual and community needs and resources are changing.

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