Network Multiplexity and The Spread of Complex Innovations: Evidence From a Microfinance Intervention in India

Valentina Assenova, Management, The Wharton School

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to examine how macro-level properties of multiplex networks, such as overlapping relations and interlocking role structures, affect the diffusion of complex innovations, those whose benefits are uncertain for a target group of adopters. Prior sociological theory and research has focused on tie properties, such as tie width and tie density, and given insufficient consideration of overall role structures and multiplexity. Beyond the density of social relations, these macro-level structures affect diffusion outcomes by shaping information flows and influence processes. This study fundamentally advances the literature on multiple role structures and social influence, by showing that interlocking role structures interact and affect how broadly and how fast innovations diffuse. Drawing on panel data of microfinance participation in 43 Indian villages over 30 months, I show that the structural distance between layers of interaction – measuring the extent of incongruence in different role configurations within the multiplex networks – was associated with (i) lower diffusion rates over time, (ii) higher frequency of wide ties, and (iii) lower adoption. I discuss the implications of these findings for social information and influence processes.

Read the full working paper here (PDF).

Michelle Eckert is Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Mack Institute, where she works to engage students, researchers, and corporate partners in opportunities for collaboration. Michelle received her B.A. in Art from Valparaiso University in 2007. Her background includes two AmeriCorps terms of service working to teach mathematics, computer literacy, and job readiness skills to out-of-school youth in Philadelphia, focusing particularly on promoting access to post-secondary education.