Combinatorial characterizations and impossibilities for higher-order homophily. Academic Article uri icon


  • Homophily is the seemingly ubiquitous tendency for people to connect and interact with other individuals who are similar to them. This is a well-documented principle and is fundamental for how society organizes. Although many social interactions occur in groups, homophily has traditionally been measured using a graph model, which only accounts for pairwise interactions involving two individuals. Here, we develop a framework using hypergraphs to quantify homophily from group interactions. This reveals natural patterns of group homophily that appear with gender in scientific collaboration and political affiliation in legislative bill cosponsorship and also reveals distinctive gender distributions in group photographs, all of which cannot be fully captured by pairwise measures. At the same time, we show that seemingly natural ways to define group homophily are combinatorially impossible. This reveals important pitfalls to avoid when defining and interpreting notions of group homophily, as higher-order homophily patterns are governed by combinatorial constraints that are independent of human behavior but are easily overlooked.

published proceedings

  • Sci Adv

altmetric score

  • 2.6

author list (cited authors)

  • Veldt, N., Benson, A. R., & Kleinberg, J.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Veldt, Nate||Benson, Austin R||Kleinberg, Jon

publication date

  • January 2023