Estimating the size of personal networks

Peter D. Killworth, Eugene C. Johnsen, H. Russell Bernard, Gene Ann Shelley, Christopher McCarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Some methods for estimating the total size of personal communication networks are presented. All involve the scaling-up of a reported network size by a factor proportional to the number of people whom informants can recall when they are presented with a representative list of last names from a telephone directory. Estimates from Jacksonville, Florida give network sizes of 1700±400; reevaluations of an estimate made for Orange County give 2025; and estimates from Mexico City give network sizes of about 600. The difficulties, and sources of error, in these estimates, are discussed. The estimates are compared with independent estimates based on the likelihood of informants knowing members of a small, countable subpopulation, which suggests for U.S. informants a network size of 1526. Thus consistent numbers are beginning to emerge, at least for U.S. informants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-312
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Networks
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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