Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

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The Relationship between Ethno-Linguistic Composition of Social Networks and Activity Space: A Study Using Mobile Phone Data

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Abstract:  This study is a contribution to the discussion on the ethnic segregation cycle, through the examination of individuals’ activity spaces—including residence and workplace—and from the perspective of social networks. Bridging social ties can be a key factor in higher minority inclusion and in breaking the vicious circle of segregation. We compare the spatial behaviour of two ethno-linguistic population groups living in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city (Estonian-speaking majority and Russian-speaking minority), each of which have co- and interethnic social networks, through the use of mobile positioning (call detail records) and call-graph data. Among our main findings, we show firstly that interethnic social networks are more common for the Russian-speaking minority population. The probability of having an interethnic network is related to the ethno-linguistic composition of the residential district concerned; districts with a higher proportion of residents from another ethnic group tend to favour interethnic networks more. Secondly, the activity space is related to the ethno-linguistic composition of the social networks. Spatial behaviour is most expansive for Estonian speakers with co-ethnic networks, and most constrained for Russian speakers with co-ethnic networks. At the same time, speakers of Estonian and Russian with interethnic networks show rather similar spatial behaviours: They tend to visit more districts where the proportion of people from the other ethno-linguistic group is higher. Interethnic networks are therefore related to spatial behaviour, which can indicate interethnic meeting points and locations, something that is regarded as being important in assimilation and segregation cycle theories.

Keywords:  activity space; assimilation; call detail records; Estonia; ethnic segregation; human mobility; mobile phone data; social network



© Siiri Silm, Veronika Mooses, Anniki Puura, Anu Masso, Erki Saluveer. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.