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  1. Abstract

    We develop a model of social interactions, as well as strategic interactions that depend on such social activity, and use it to measure social complementarities in the legislative process. Our model allows for partisan bias and homophily in the formation of relationships, which then impact legislative output. We use it to show how increased electoral competition can induce increased social behavior and the nonlinear effects of political polarization on legislative activity. We identify and structurally estimate our model using data on social and legislative efforts of members of each of the 105th–110th U.S. Congresses (1997–2009). We find large spillover effects in the form of complementarities between the efforts of politicians, both within and across parties. Although partisanship and preference differences between parties are significant drivers of socializing, our empirical evidence paints a less polarized picture of the informal connections of legislators than typically emerges from legislative votes alone.

  2. 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 1–8 . However, efforts to understand what types of social capital matter for these outcomes have been hindered by a lack of social network data. Here, in the first of a pair of papers 9 , we use data on 21 billion friendships from Facebook to study social capital. We measure and analyse three types of social capital by ZIP (postal) code in the United States: (1) connectedness between different types of people, such as those with low versus high socioeconomic status (SES); (2) social cohesion, such as the extent of cliques in friendship networks; and (3) civic engagement, such as rates of volunteering. These measures vary substantially across areas, but are not highly correlated with each other. We demonstrate the importance of distinguishing these forms of social capital by analysing 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 10,11 . Other social capital measures are not strongly associated with economic mobility. Ifmore »children with low-SES parents were to grow up in counties with economic connectedness comparable to that of the average child with high-SES parents, their incomes in adulthood would increase by 20% on average. Differences in economic connectedness can explain well-known relationships between upward income mobility and racial segregation, poverty rates, and inequality 12–14 . To support further research and policy interventions, we publicly release privacy-protected statistics on social capital by ZIP code at https://www.socialcapital.org .« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 4, 2023
  3. Abstract Low levels of social interaction across class lines have generated widespread concern 1–4 and are associated with worse outcomes, such as lower rates of upward income mobility 4–7 . Here we analyse the determinants of cross-class interaction using data from Facebook, building on the analysis in our companion paper 7 . We show that about half of the social disconnection across socioeconomic lines—measured as the difference in the share of high-socioeconomic status (SES) friends between people with low and high SES—is explained by differences in exposure to people with high SES in groups such as schools and religious organizations. The other half is explained by friending bias—the tendency for people with low SES to befriend people with high SES at lower rates even conditional on exposure. Friending bias is shaped by the structure of the groups in which people interact. For example, friending bias is higher in larger and more diverse groups and lower in religious organizations than in schools and workplaces. Distinguishing exposure from friending bias is helpful for identifying interventions to increase cross-SES friendships (economic connectedness). Using fluctuations in the share of students with high SES across high school cohorts, we show that increases in high-SES exposure lead low-SES peoplemore »to form more friendships with high-SES people in schools that exhibit low levels of friending bias. Thus, socioeconomic integration can increase economic connectedness in communities in which friending bias is low. By contrast, when friending bias is high, increasing cross-SES interactions among existing members may be necessary to increase economic connectedness. To support such efforts, we release privacy-protected statistics on economic connectedness, exposure and friending bias for each ZIP (postal) code, high school and college in the United States at https://www.socialcapital.org .« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 4, 2023
  4. We provide an overview of the relationship between financial networks and systemic risk. We present a taxonomy of different types of systemic risk, differentiating between direct externalities between financial organizations (e.g., defaults, correlated portfolios, fire sales), and perceptions and feedback effects (e.g., bank runs, credit freezes). We also discuss optimal regulation and bailouts, measurements of systemic risk and financial centrality, choices by banks regarding their portfolios and partnerships, and the changing nature of financial networks.
  5. We present two models of how people form beliefs that are based on machine learning theory. We illustrate how these models give insight into observed human phenomena by showing how polarized beliefs can arise even when people are exposed to almost identical sources of information. In our first model, people form beliefs that are deterministic functions that best fit their past data (training sets). In that model, their inability to form probabilistic beliefs can lead people to have opposing views even if their data are drawn from distributions that only slightly disagree. In the second model, people pay a cost that is increasing in the complexity of the function that represents their beliefs. In this second model, even with large training sets drawn from exactly the same distribution, agents can disagree substantially because they simplify the world along different dimensions. We discuss what these models of belief formation suggest for improving people’s accuracy and agreement.

  6. Regional quarantine policies, in which a portion of a population surrounding infections is locked down, are an important tool to contain disease. However, jurisdictional governments—such as cities, counties, states, and countries—act with minimal coordination across borders. We show that a regional quarantine policy’s effectiveness depends on whether 1) the network of interactions satisfies a growth balance condition, 2) infections have a short delay in detection, and 3) the government has control over and knowledge of the necessary parts of the network (no leakage of behaviors). As these conditions generally fail to be satisfied, especially when interactions cross borders, we show that substantial improvements are possible if governments are outward looking and proactive: triggering quarantines in reaction to neighbors’ infection rates, in some cases even before infections are detected internally. We also show that even a few lax governments—those that wait for nontrivial internal infection rates before quarantining—impose substantial costs on the whole system. Our results illustrate the importance of understanding contagion across policy borders and offer a starting point in designing proactive policies for decentralized jurisdictions.

  7. Abstract

    Can we identify highly central individuals in a network without collecting network data, simply by asking community members? Can seeding information via such nominated individuals lead to significantly wider diffusion than via randomly chosen people, or even respected ones? In two separate large field experiments in India, we answer both questions in the affirmative. In particular, in 521 villages in Haryana, we provided information on monthly immunization camps to either randomly selected individuals (in some villages) or to individuals nominated by villagers as people who would be good at transmitting information (in other villages). We find that the number of children vaccinated every month is 22% higher in villages in which nominees received the information. We show that people’s knowledge of who are highly central individuals and good seeds can be explained by a model in which community members simply track how often they hear gossip about others. Indeed, we find in a third data set that nominated seeds are central in a network sense, and are not just those with many friends or in powerful positions.