Group mixing drives inequality in face-to-face gatherings

Uncovering how inequality emerges from human interaction is imperative for just societies. Here we show that the way social groups interact in face-to-face situations can enable the emergence of disparities in the visibility of social groups. These disparities translate into members of specific social groups having fewer social ties than the average (i.e., degree inequality). We characterize group degree inequality in sensor-based data sets and present a mechanism that explains these disparities as the result of group mixing and group-size imbalance. We investigate how group sizes affect this inequality, thereby uncovering the critical size and mixing conditions in which a critical minority group emerges. If a minority group is larger than this critical size, it can be a well-connected, cohesive group; if it is smaller, minority cohesion widens inequality. Finally, we expose group under-representation in degree rankings due to mixing dynamics and propose a way to reduce such biases.

This report is published in Communication Physics.

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