Abstract: Social capital—the strength of an individual’s social network and community—has been identified as a potential determinant of outcomes ranging from education to health. We use data on 21 billion friendships in the US to measure and analyze different types of social capital including connectedness between different types of people, social cohesion, and civic engagement. We demonstrate the importance of distinguishing these forms of social capital by analyzing their associations with economic mobility across areas. The share of high-SES friends among individuals with low SES—which we term economic connectedness—is among the strongest predictors of upward income mobility identified to date. In a different paper we use social network data in India to show the importance of social networks to labor migrants and find that increasing social connectedness across space may have considerable economic gains, improving average wages by 3% (24% for the bottom wage-quartile) in a migration model.
Bio: Mike Bailey is a senior social scientist at Meta on the Core Data Science team. His work focuses on the role of social networks on economic opportunity including migration, health, education, and social capital and has been featured in top scientific journals such as Nature and the Journal of Political Economy and covered by outlets such as The Economist and The New York Times.