To earn more as an adult, you have to make rich friends as a child. According to a large and detailed study conducted by a team of researchers from Harvard and also based on data collected through Facebookin the United States people from families a low income that in childhood they tightened friendship with more affluent children they are more likely to have one higher salary. A consideration that is not too surprising – it is true – but which until now remained in the sphere of speculation, having never been proven by data.
In two articles published on Nature (here And here), Raj Chetty of Harvard University and his colleagues analyzed the information, collected anonymously by Facebookfrom 72.2 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 44: by combining the average income of people living in the same region, age, gender and the model value of the latest smartphone (representing the individual income bracket), a machine learning algorithm determined it socio-economic status of each. In this way the researchers used the average family income calculated, equal to 58 thousand dollars, to divide people into two groups: those with low socio-economic status and those with high.
At this point, observing the circles of friendsscientists have pointed out that people with a low socio-economic status they only had the 38.8 percent of friends with high status; consistently, people with above-average socioeconomic status had 70.6 percent of friends belonging to their own group. In short, in neither of the two groups are friendships random, otherwise the distribution would have been close to 50 percent.
In the next phase of the study, the team compared these data with those on economic mobility produced by another Harvard research project, theOpportunity Atlaswhich used information gathered from censuses (for example, taxes paid, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, and parental income) to determine the average family income at 35 years of an American person born between 1978 and 1983. It emerged that whoever came from low-income families he was more likely to earn as an adult one medium-high salary if his friends included people from richer contexts.
The researchers also mapped the places where these friendships were born, identifying contexts such as the high school, religious communities or “mixed” neighborhoods.
For researchers, they are also the chance to know realities different from one’s own and people of other socio-economic levels to determine who, coming from a low-income family, will earn the most as an adult. If schools or neighborhoods hosted children with a more varied socio-economic status, increasing the chances of interaction between different incomes, a good part of that economic disparity would come filled in adulthood.