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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.

Go deeper

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.

The deplatforming fight shifts to the courts

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Capitol riot and tech firms' sweeping attempt in its wake to dislodge the online far right are kicking up efforts to have the courts settle knotty questions about online speech and power.

Why it matters: Legal battles could force the people angry at Big Tech to bring more rigor to arguments that have often devolved into messy sideshows.