Measuring Social Connectedness

86 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2017

See all articles by Michael Bailey

Michael Bailey

Facebook

Rachel Cao

Harvard University

Theresa Kuchler

New York University (NYU)

Johannes Stroebel

New York University (NYU); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Arlene Wong

Princeton University

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 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.

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Suggested Citation

Bailey, Michael and Cao, Ruiqing and Kuchler, Theresa and Stroebel, Johannes and Wong, Arlene, Measuring Social Connectedness (July 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23608. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3007480

Michael Bailey (Contact Author)

Facebook ( email )

1601 S. California Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94304
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Ruiqing Cao

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Theresa Kuchler

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
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New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Johannes Stroebel

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
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New York, NY 10003-711
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Arlene Wong

Princeton University ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

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