Researchers have published new research using privacy-protected data on Facebook friendships to better understand the connection between social networks and economic opportunity.
Opportunity Insights group and researchers at Harvard, New York University and Stanford partnered with Meta researchers to analyze privacy-protected data from US Facebook and Instagram users. The researchers have long speculated that people’s social connections play a large role in shaping the opportunities people have to find jobs, succeed in school or find help during a crisis. But they didn’t have access to the data necessary to explore their hypothesis.
The research found that social connections play an important role in helping people achieve economic mobility, and neighbourhoods that foster more connections between low-income and high-income people tend to have higher levels of mobility.
“This work shows how Meta’s data can be used for significant societal research when shared responsibly,” Nick Clegg, President, Global Affairs said in a blogspot.
The findings on of a years-long research project which began in 2018 culminated in two papers published on August 1 in the journal Nature.
The collaboration between the researchers and Meta also led to the creation of the Social Capital Atlas, new datasets and research insights that uses data from Facebook friendships to provide measures of social capital across ZIP codes, high schools and colleges in the United States.
“Meta is making this dataset available through our Data for Good program. We’ve also partnered with Opportunity Insights to build tools to easily visualize and download the data at socialcapital.org,” Nick said.
According to Nick, the work is a major contribution of Meta’s understanding of the relationship between social connections and economic opportunity.
“It shows how Meta’s data can be used for societally significant research when shared responsibly and in a way that protects people’s privacy,” he said.