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Measuring Social Connectedness

Author

Listed:
  • Michael Bailey
  • Ruiqing (Rachel) Cao
  • Theresa Kuchler
  • Johannes Stroebel
  • Arlene Wong

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Bailey & Ruiqing (Rachel) Cao & Theresa Kuchler & Johannes Stroebel & Arlene Wong, 2017. "Measuring Social Connectedness," NBER Working Papers 23608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23608
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    Cited by:

    1. Konstantin Büchel und Maximilian von Ehrlich, 2016. "Cities and the Structure of Social Interactions: Evidence from Mobile Phone Data," Diskussionsschriften dp1608, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft.
    2. Bogang Jun & Aamena Alshamsi & Jian Gao & Cesar A Hidalgo, 2017. "Relatedness, Knowledge Diffusion, and the Evolution of Bilateral Trade," Papers 1709.05392, arXiv.org.
    3. Kim, Jun Sung & Patacchini, Eleonora & Picard, Pierre M. & Zenou, Yves, 2017. "Urban Interactions," Working Paper Series 1192, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • E0 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General
    • E7 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

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