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Research Urban and Regional Studies Institute PRC

Mobility in Social Networks

Principal researcher

Ori Rubin

Type of research

PhD. research


Prof. C.H. Mulder (RUG) and Prof. L. Bertolini (UvA)

Summary of the project  


Interactions in social networks are necessary for accumulating and maintaining vital social capital. Nowadays, network members and the interactions among them can be situated at geographically dispersed locations. Despite increasing use of telecommunications physical mobility is still necessary to maintain these interactions.

Mobility (in the sense of travel) is therefore essential for individuals: not only it allows them to reach jobs and essential services, it also allows them to maintain face-to-face contacts within their social networks and to carry out leisure activities. The drawback of mobility for individuals is that it is costly, in monetary terms but also in terms of time and stress. Individuals regularly make trade-offs between travel and other alternatives, such as residential mobility (moving to a different residential location). The choice of mode of transport (e.g. car, public transport, bike, foot) is an important factor in these trade-offs.

Mobility has also broad societal implications: mobility increases economic activity and it allows people to participate in social life. On the other hand, it entails high environmental costs such as increased pollution, noise and space consumption. These negative effects are strongly correlated with the amount of mobility realized through car travel (Bertolini & Le Clercq, 2003; Banister, 2005). In order to achieve sustainable mobility it is essential to gain more insight into individual travel mobility and its determinants. As non-work related travel account for a majority of trips, there is an urgent need for research providing a better understanding of trips for social purposes (Dugundji et al., 2008).

This project has two aims. The first aim is to gain insight into the role of car availability and the geographical context in mobility in social networks. The second aim is to gain insight into the opportunities and constraints for more sustainable mobility (that is, less mobility by car) in these networks.

Research Questions

The main questions this research will be concerned with:

  1. How are distance, frequency and mode choice of mobility in social networks related to car availability and the geographical context?
  2. W hat are the opportunities for and constraints to increasing sustainability in mobility in social networks by reducing car use?

Theoretical Background

The theoretical background of the project will be developed around three theoretical frameworks and bodies of literature. The first is theory and research on contacts with members of the social network. The second is concerned with travel mobility. The third is concerned with policy for sustainable mobility.

Data and Methods

The main data set used in this research is the Mobility in Social Networks module of the LISS panel. The data set consists of three waves from the years 2009-2011 and contains micro-level information of about 5000 individuals. These respondents provided a wealth of information about, among other things, the residential locations of family members and friends and the locations of leisure activities and paid work; frequency, mode of transport and duration of trips to and from these family members and friends and to these leisure activities and work, frequency of virtual contact (via telephone or internet) with network members; and car availability of the respondent and the network members. The data will be supplemented by additional sources. These data will be analyzed through techniques of multivariate statistical analyses of cross sectional and panel data.

Last modified:07 August 2020 2.54 p.m.