A massive study of Facebook data is shedding new light on connections between Americans and how those relationships, in turn, affect economic outcomes.
A research team led by Harvard economist Raj Chetty published the results today around the world. two the documents In the magazine Nature, exploring how social ties lead to economic opportunities. The researchers studied data on 21 billion Facebook friends collected from 72.2 million U.S. Facebook users aged 25 to 44 who provided their zip code.
first article looks at these results through the lens of “economic connectedness”—basically how close people from different economic classes are to each other. Researchers have found that people with lower incomes are more likely to improve their financial situation over time if they are associated with people with higher incomes.
“The proportion of friends with high SES among those with low SES—what we call economic connectedness—is one of the strongest predictors of upward mobility of income identified to date,” the researchers write. “If children of low SES parents grew up in neighborhoods with economic ties comparable to the average children of high SES parents, their adult incomes would increase by an average of 20%.”
Income mobility research is not just for idle academic interest. More knowledge about the social bonds that link communities and how they lead to different economic outcomes could help drive action to help lift low-income communities and provide them with more financial opportunities, the researchers note.
second document dives into these connections and how they are formed. A group of Harvard researchers found that connections between high- and low-income people are often established through structured social organizations such as schools and religious groups. However, the researchers found that even with social exposure at other income levels, people were still more likely to form social bonds with others who were of the same socioeconomic status.
The study is interesting and potentially significant given the widening wealth gap in the US. High-income families continue to accumulate wealth at an ever-increasing rate, leaving the poor even further behind. And the richest 5% of families in the US are growing their fortunes the fastest.
“Differences in economic connectivity may explain the well-known relationship between upward mobility of income and racial segregation, poverty rates and inequality,” the researchers write.
With the largest user base of any social platform ever created, Facebook offers a wealth of potential data for researchers interested in studying the many facets of human behavior and social structures. Historically, parent company Facebook Meta has had a somewhat strained relationship with researchers, especially those interested in shedding light on how the social network itself is shaping society. signs that the Meta is gearing up for more outside research.
Meta also remains sensitive to potential abuse of the vast amount of personal data it monetizes. The company still suffers from a reputation for poor data management after the incident. Cambridge Analytics scandal, even four years later. However, the company seems to recognize that expanding its research capabilities for the benefit of society can help offset it. Long story from sow social discord.
“This work is an important contribution to our understanding of the relationship between social connections and economic opportunity,” Meta wrote in Blog post for research. “And it shows how Meta data can be used for public interest research if it’s used responsibly and in a way that protects people’s privacy.”
The data is also available through a new interactive site called “atlas of social capital“.
Credit: techcrunch.com /