Network sampling coverage II: The effect of non-random missing data on network measurement

Jeffrey A. Smith, James Moody, Jonathan H. Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Missing data is an important, but often ignored, aspect of a network study. Measurement validity is affected by missing data, but the level of bias can be difficult to gauge. Here, we describe the effect of missing data on network measurement across widely different circumstances. In Part I of this study (Smith and Moody, 2013), we explored the effect of measurement bias due to randomly missing nodes. Here, we drop the assumption that data are missing at random: what happens to estimates of key network statistics when central nodes are more/less likely to be missing? We answer this question using a wide range of empirical networks and network measures. We find that bias is worse when more central nodes are missing. With respect to network measures, Bonacich centrality is highly sensitive to the loss of central nodes, while closeness centrality is not; distance and bicomponent size are more affected than triad summary measures and behavioral homophily is more robust than degree-homophily. With respect to types of networks, larger, directed networks tend to be more robust, but the relation is weak. We end the paper with a practical application, showing how researchers can use our results (translated into a publically available java application) to gauge the bias in their own data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-99
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Networks
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Missing data
  • Network bias
  • Network sampling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)


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