May 17, 2017

How your social network can predict your wealth

Luca Bruno / AP

In a new study, researchers were able to predict a person's economic status from their social network — the greater the number and diversity of connections, the greater the likelihood someone is wealthy.

What it means: Besides predicting economic status, author Hernan Makse said the data may indicate how a person is likely to react to issues and could be useful in maximizing the effects of large-scale economic stimulus policies. "For instance, the network of ties not only affect your economic status," Makse told Axios, "but also whether you are obese, you smoke, you are happy or you are married to the right person…The probability of all these events depends on your circle of influence."

The experiment: Makse and his team analyzed two datasets from Mexico: about 110 million phone calls across the country over three months and banking information from 500,000 people to determine their personal economic status (as measured by their credit card limit).

The results: Individuals in the top 1% of the economic stratum had a high location and influence in their social network compared with those in the bottom 10%.

Next step: The study better predicts economic status of older people than younger ones, so Ehsan Kazemi, a postdoctoral research fellow at Yale University who wasn't involved in the research, says they could follow up with the younger set in a few years to see if the economic prediction is correct.

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