How social and genetic factors predict friendship networks
Recent research suggests that the genotype of one individual in a friendship pair is predictive of the genotype of his/her friend. These results provide tentative support for the genetic homophily perspective, which has important implications for social and genetic epidemiology because it substantiates a particular form of gene–environment correlation. This process may also have important implications for social scientists who study the social factors related to health and health-related behaviors. We extend this work by considering the ways in which school context shapes genetically similar friendships. Using the network, school, and genetic information from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we show that genetic homophily for the TaqI A polymorphism within the DRD2 gene is stronger in schools with greater levels of inequality. Our results suggest that individuals with similar genotypes may not actively select into friendships; rather, they may be placed into these contexts by institutional mechanisms outside of their control. Our work highlights the fundamental role played by broad social structures in the extent to which genetic factors explain complex behaviors, such as friendships.