Criminal networks are thought to be biased toward decentralization and security rather than integration and efficiency. This article examines this tradeoff in a large-scale national criminal network spanning more than 700 members of 24 distinct American mafia families operating in the mid-20th century. Producing a novel network image of the American mafia as a set of highly differentiated yet intertwined islands of criminal activity, the analysis uncovers a small-world structure that allowed both for strong intragroup closure and high intergroup connectivity. This balance reflected a division of network labor in which integrative bridging connections were disproportionately concentrated among a small number of criminals. Furthermore, the criminals who held such bridging ties tended to be either low- or high-status—but not of middling status—within their respective organizations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- General Social Sciences
- General Psychology