Measuring Social Connectedness

85 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2017

See all articles by Michael Bailey

Michael Bailey

Facebook

Ruiqing Cao

Harvard Business School

Theresa Kuchler

New York University (NYU)

Johannes Stroebel

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Arlene Wong

Northwestern University - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 13, 2017

Abstract

We introduce a new measure of social connectedness between U.S. county-pairs, as well as between U.S. counties and foreign countries. Our measure, which we call the “Social Connectedness Index” (SCI), is based on the number of friendship links on Facebook, the world’s largest online social networking service. Within the U.S., social connectedness is strongly decreasing in geographic distance between counties: for the population of the average county, 62.8% of friends live within 100 miles. The populations of counties with more geographically dispersed social networks are generally richer, more educated, and have a higher life expectancy. Region-pairs that are more socially connected have higher trade flows, even after controlling for geographic distance and the similarity of regions along other economic and demographic measures. Higher social connectedness is also associated with more cross-county migration and patent citations. Social connectedness between U.S. counties and foreign countries is correlated with past migration patterns, with social connectedness decaying in the time since the primary migration wave from that country. Trade with foreign countries is also strongly related to social connectedness. These results suggest that the SCI captures an important role of social networks in facilitating both economic and social interactions. Our findings also highlight the potential for the SCI to mitigate the measurement challenges that pervade empirical research on the role of social interactions across the social sciences.

Keywords: D8, L14, F1, O33, R23, J6

JEL Classification: Social Networks, Measurement, Homophily, Diffusion of Information

Suggested Citation

Bailey, Michael and Cao, Ruiqing and Kuchler, Theresa and Stroebel, Johannes and Wong, Arlene, Measuring Social Connectedness (July 13, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3001931 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3001931

Michael Bailey

Facebook ( email )

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Ruiqing Cao

Harvard Business School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Theresa Kuchler

New York University (NYU) ( email )

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Johannes Stroebel (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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Arlene Wong

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

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United States

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