Social networks among men and women: the effects of age and socioeconomic status

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2005 Nov;60(6):S311-S317. doi: 10.1093/geronb/60.6.s311.


Objectives: This study examines the main and interactive effects of age and socioeconomic status (SES) on social networks.

Methods: Respondents are drawn from a regional stratified probability sample aged 40 to 93 years. Hierarchical regression analysis estimates the influence of age and SES on dimensions of social networks, controlling for marital status and health among men and women.

Results: Among men, older age was associated with older networks. Professional men report networks that are less geographically proximal, however, occupational effects are most obvious in late life. Among women, age is associated with smaller networks that are older, less geographically proximal, and less frequently contacted. Whereas less education is associated with younger network members in midlife, among women in later life, lower levels of education are not associated with a younger network. Professional women report older networks composed of a higher proportion of friends than do homemakers. Higher levels of education are linked to larger personal networks among men and women, but not to the number of individuals considered closest. Among women, higher levels of education are also associated with less proximal networks.

Discussion: An examination of within-group variability reveals influences of age and SES on personal networks among men and women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Data Collection
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • United States