What is it about?

We show a robust relationship between social network structure and economic outcomes at the level of individuals in the US using data from Meta. It corroborates previous findings on the important role of ties with no or few mutual contacts, which can be sources of non-redundant information. However, we bring the interplay between social structure and strength of ties into attention and show the special value of strong long ties — ties where there is more frequent interaction, and thus perhaps bandwidth and trust for sharing particularly valuable information. We also show the importance of previous life events in the ability of people to maintain these ties. Disruptive life events that expose people to a different community, e.g. moving to a new school, force individuals to form new friendships with people from a potentially different background. These individuals tend to have more long ties many years later, which can help them to achieve better economic outcomes.

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Why is it important?

Our findings emphasize the significance of social capital in long ties. Building upon previous research, the broader picture is one in which long ties have a vital role in facilitating positive outcomes across various contexts — enhanced access to opportunities, reduced inequality, increased organizational creativity, and a diversified range of opinions, consequently mitigating the spread of misinformation. We believe these findings have special implications for policy makers or platform designers. Programs that enable individuals to from these valuable social ties, online or offline, will potentially lead to better social welfare.


My main motivation to write this article was to understand how social networks can affect inequality. I hope our findings make a strong case why networks are important when it comes to economic outcomes. I believe the evidence we provide on the origins of long ties is perhaps the most impactful part of our work. It suggests developing these valuable ties requires certain set of skills which can be taught at a young age. This might lead to better social welfare and reduce inequality. I hope these findings motivate other researchers to look into this area.

Eaman Jahani

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This page is a summary of: Long ties, disruptive life events, and economic prosperity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2211062120.
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