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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 »Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 4, 2023
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 »Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 4, 2023