From the schools people attend to the jobs they find, relationships can have a profound impact on life. But figuring out how these connections affect a person’s economic status can be tricky.Now, an analysis of billions of Facebook connections shows that childhood friendship between rich and poor Researchers report online Aug. 1 that individuals are linked to higher incomes later in poor children nature.
The study used big data to explain long-term research showing that a poor child who has loose social ties with mentors or the parents of wealthy friends can help the child escape poverty, said Song Song, a sociologist at New York University. Pennsylvania was not involved in the study.
“With people you know very well, people you have close ties to, you have very similar resources or social status,” Song said. “But the people who can really help you get a job, say … are the people with whom you have a weak relationship.” That’s because people outside of your child’s immediate orbit can show them future options they might never consider, Such as going to college or certain career tracks.
For the study, Harvard economist Raj Chetty and colleagues used data on about 72 million Facebook users in the United States between the ages of 25 and 44. The team found that if a relatively poor child lived in a place where they could make roughly the same number of rich friends as the average rich child in the United States, the poor child would have, on average, more adult income than would have been expected without the network. 20% higher. .
These cross-class friendships — which the researchers call economic ties — are “one of the strongest predictors of economic mobility that anyone has identified to date,” Chetty said in a July 28 news conference.
The researchers looked at other measures of social capital, or the value of relationships, including what the researchers call cohesion, or the tightness of friendship networks, and civic engagement, such as volunteerism, which indicates a person’s participation in community groups.
The team noted that all three measures of social capital were important for different life outcomes. For example, higher cohesion is associated with higher life expectancy. But only economic linkages have been shown to be associated with higher-than-expected gains.
The team measured socioeconomic status by looking at the average income and self-reported educational attainment of Facebook users in their area of residence. Individuals were then divided into below-median and above-median income groups.
The researchers also determined Drivers of economic linkagescalled “exposure” and “friend bias” in the second study nature. Exposure refers to the average number of rich people that poor people come into contact with in their daily lives, such as at school, work, or religious organizations. Friendship bias refers to the rate at which poor people make friends with wealthier people in these social domains. Chetty points out that high dating bias may stem from people’s desire to hang out with people like themselves, as well as structural barriers, such as stalking at school.
In the U.S., about half of social disconnection stems from Lack of exposure or isolationThe researchers found that (Serial Number: 2/8/22). Surprisingly, the other half came from dating bias. In other words, the team concluded that policies aimed solely at increasing exposure, such as sending children to certain schools or affirmative action policies, are not sufficient to foster economic ties.
In the US, even Chetty’s own team, so much effort has gone towards Vigorously integrate groupssaid Dartmouth University economist Bruce Sacerdote nature About research. This work shows that “there are simpler and less expensive things you can do to increase connections without having to move.”
For example, Highland Lakes High School in Texas has roughly the same proportion of students from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds, but high friendship bias. Administrators and students recently identified the school’s building as the culprit. That said, the school has three cafeterias, which allow students to categorize themselves into “appropriate” restaurants based on their social circle. The architects are now working to create a dining room where everyone can mix together, as well as more space for students to interact.
As part of the new study, the team released a public dataset This enables users to measure how connected the rich and the poor are in every U.S. county, zip code, high school, and college. The team hopes that policymakers and school administrators can use the dataset to determine the most effective class integration policies under local conditions.
Smaller datasets exist to measure social capital, says Brian Levy, a sociologist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. “The ability to quantify the overall impact across the country is unique.”
The researchers stress that making these connections — even after childhood — is key to reducing friendship bias and improving economic outcomes for the nation’s poor. As an example of the type of new projects needed, they point to Inner City Weightlifting, a nonprofit organization based in Dorchester, Massachusetts, whose mission is to connect people from different social worlds. The nonprofit trains people from underprivileged backgrounds as personal fitness trainers and then connects them with wealthier clients.
“Generally, trainers and clients become friends,” said Jon Feinman, the company’s founder and CEO. He’s seen clients vouch for their coaches in court, or pay for expensive summer camps for their kids.
Bobby Fullard, 30, is a trainer for the nonprofit. He remembers a day a few years ago when a white client at his gym messaged him on Instagram asking if he would run with her on Saturday. Fullard, who is black with tattoos and dreadlocks, reluctantly agreed.
“The most uncomfortable thing for me was talking to a white woman. I just didn’t think they would understand my world,” said Fullard, who was in and out of prison in his teens and 20s. But he agreed to run away.
When Fullard showed up, the woman brought a friend, another white woman. Fullard felt anxious. “I said two words every time I spoke,” he recalls. But the client helped him get comfortable, and the three have been running together regularly since then.
Recently, Fullard realized that he really wanted to be a carpenter. So he started his own woodworking business. Among his first clients? The two running buddies, he said.