Exponential random graph models (ERGMs) are a family of statistical models for analyzing data about social and other networks.

Many metrics exist to describe the structural features of an observed network such as the density, centrality, or assortativity. However, these metrics describe the observed network which is only one instance of a large number of possible alternative networks. This set of alternative networks may have similar or dissimilar structural features. To support statistical inference on the processes influencing the formation of network structure, a statistical model should consider the set of all possible alternative networks weighted on their similarity to an observed network. However because network data is inherently relational, it violates the assumptions of independence and identical distribution of standard statistical models like linear regression. Alternative statistical models should reflect the uncertainty associated with a given observation, permit inference about the relative frequency about network substructures of theoretical interest, disambiguating the influence of confounding processes, efficiently representing complex structures, and linking local-level processes to global-level properties. Degree-preserving randomization, for example, is a specific way in which an observed network could be considered in terms of multiple alternative networks.