Skip to content
ascd logo

Join
December 1, 2022
Vol. 80
No. 4
Research Alert

Facebook-Data Study Shows Socioeconomic Divides

author avatar

    premium resources logo

    Premium Resource

    Equity
    Illustration of 5 people talking under 5 talk bubbles
    Credit: VICTORIABAR / iSTOCK
      Social capital—the strength of an individual's social network and community–is often mentioned as a factor in helping people move out of poverty. A study by Opportunity Insights analyzed data on more than 1 billion friendship connections on Facebook to get a sense of how stratified by socio-economic status friendships in America are and to explore how cross-class friendships relate to upward mobility.
      Researchers measured three types of social capital in U.S. communities: economic connectedness (degree of interaction between low- and high-income people); the cohesiveness of social networks; and civic engagement (rates of participation in community organizations). Among the key findings are that social networks are segregated by income. Higher-income people tend to have higher-income friends: For example, 34 percent of the friends of people in the top 10 percent income distribution also come from the top 10 percent. For people in the bottom 10 percent, only 2 percent of friends come from the top tier. Social disconnection by class, data analysis indicated, is due to both segregation by income and "friending bias" (well-off people are more likely than poor ones to befriend well-off people).
      Using this Facebook interaction data to identify which large U.S. counties in the study are, on average, most economically connected revealed that people who grew up low-income in more economically connected counties tended to have higher earnings as adults—and that differences in economic connectedness largely explain why segregated areas have less upward mobility.
      The findings highlight the importance of communities being socioeconomically integrated, which has implications for policy issues like zoning laws and school admissions. The study concludes that, "If children with low-income parents grew up in counties with economic connectedness comparable to that of the average child with high-income parents, their incomes in adulthood would increase by 20 percent on average."
      References

      Chetty, R., Jackson, M., Kuchler, T., Stroebel, J., Hiller, A., & Oppenheimer, S. (2022). Social capital and economic mobility. Opportunity Insights.

      Naomi Thiers is the managing editor of Educational Leadership.

      Learn More

      ASCD is a community dedicated to educators' professional growth and well-being.

      Let us help you put your vision into action.
      Related Articles
      View all
      undefined
      Equity
      From Learning Loss to a Liberatory Mindset
      Sonja Cherry-Paul
      5 days ago

      undefined
      Every Student Is a Firecracker
      Jen Schwanke
      2 months ago

      undefined
      Building Empathy with Poverty Simulations
      Tara Laskowski
      2 months ago

      undefined
      What If Schools Truly Partnered with Families Living in Poverty?
      Sharon Radd & Mark Anthony Gooden et al.
      2 months ago

      undefined
      Learning from Schools on the Path to High-Performing
      Kathleen M. Budge & William H. Parrett
      2 months ago
      Related Articles
      From Learning Loss to a Liberatory Mindset
      Sonja Cherry-Paul
      5 days ago

      Every Student Is a Firecracker
      Jen Schwanke
      2 months ago

      Building Empathy with Poverty Simulations
      Tara Laskowski
      2 months ago

      What If Schools Truly Partnered with Families Living in Poverty?
      Sharon Radd & Mark Anthony Gooden et al.
      2 months ago

      Learning from Schools on the Path to High-Performing
      Kathleen M. Budge & William H. Parrett
      2 months ago
      From our issue
      December 2022 / January 2023 header image
      Confronting Poverty in Schools
      Go To Publication