Counterbalances to Economic Homophily: Microlevel Mechanisms in a Historical Setting

TitleCounterbalances to Economic Homophily: Microlevel Mechanisms in a Historical Setting
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsTrapido D.
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Date PublishedSep
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0002-9602
Accession NumberWOS:000329367500004
Keywordsbehavior, cooperation, embeddedness, empirical-test, exchange, market uncertainty, network positions, Organizations, selection, social-structure

The tendency to transact within, rather than across, identity-based groups is a well-established effect of identity divisions. While previous work emphasized macrolevel, impersonal factors that counteract this tendency, this article looks at how individuals may counteract it in everyday interaction. Two microlevel counterbalances to economic homophily are examined with unique data on partnerships among Tory and Whig merchants in 18th-century Bristol, England. No conclusive support is found for the first examined counterbalance, which presumes that cross-group social relations, such as joint civic activities, induce parallel economic relations. Instead, the analysis shows that Tory-Whig partnerships were facilitated by the practice of choosing cross-party partners of unequal professional prominence. Such professionally unequal relations involve tacit status subordination, which reduces the relation-specific uncertainty associated with transacting across a salient identity division. The results highlight the potential of uncertainty avoidance to sustain inequality between social groups and suggest unexplored contingencies to theories of status homophily.