What 21 billion Facebook friendships say about the economic ladder in the US - The Verge
Meta released a dataset that includes information on 21 billion Facebook friendships. That data was used for new studies on how friendships between high- and low-income people boost economic and social mobility.
Meta publicly released information on 21 billion Facebook friendships as part of a research project looking at economic inequality in the United States, the company announced today. Along with new insights into the intersection of money and friendships in America, the partnership between Meta and the researchers gives us another look at who Facebook is willing to share data with — and why.
The research team wanted to understand why people in some places in the US were more likely to move between economic brackets than in others. Using the information from Meta, along with other data, a research team built a dataset for a pair of studies on economic mobility, published Monday in the journal Nature. One study found that people who grow up in areas where there are more friendships between high- and low-income people are more likely to move out of poverty and up the economic ladder.
“Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids’ outcomes and gives them a better shot at rising out of poverty,” Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist and lead researcher on the study, told The New York Times.
Many places, though, don’t allow for much interaction between high- and low-income people, the second of the two studies found. And even when a neighborhood does allow for that kind of interaction, people are still more likely to befriend people in similar economic brackets.
Chetty and his collaborators first got access to Facebook’s data in 2018 as part of an effort to understand economic inequality and the vast income disparities in the US. Meta researchers partnered with Chetty on the project, and other members of the research team are affiliated with groups that have contracts with Meta.