Margherita Comola, Marcel Fafchamps, 04 November 2014

How should researchers investigate the true role of people’s self-reported social links in getting a job, getting a favour or simply getting information? This column introduces a framework to estimate the process by which people’s self-reported social links are formed. The authors show that different link formation rules predict the different network structures seen in data from a risk-sharing survey in a Tanzanian village and the diffusion of agricultural knowledge in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

Xiaodong Liu, Eleonora Patacchini, Yves Zenou, 09 April 2013

Economists know that your peers’ behaviour affects your economic and social outcomes. But what mechanisms are at work here? This column highlights the two major approaches that hope to explain ‘peer effects’: either people don’t want to deviate from social norms; or they are affected by a ‘social multiplier’, the influence of the sum of their peers’ behaviour. Using detailed data on friendship networks, evidence suggests that there are strong social-multiplier effects in criminal behaviour whereas, for education, social norms matter the most. A detailed understanding of peer effects will undoubtedly help policymakers better tackle social problems.

Alessandra Fogli, Laura Veldkamp, 21 October 2012

Does the pattern of social connections between individuals matter for macroeconomic outcomes? This paper uses network analysis tools to explore how different social structures affect technology diffusion and thereby a country’s rate of technological progress.

Sanjeev Goyal, 21 January 2011

Sanjeev Goyal of the University of Cambridge talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his research on social networks. He describes the significance and potential downside of the ‘law of the few’, whereby social groups typically rely on information from a very small number of ‘opinion leaders’ to inform their economic decision-making. The interview was recorded at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Glasgow in August 2010. [Also read the transcript]

Ginger Jin, Yuyu Chen, Yang Yue, 07 March 2010

What determines mass migration within countries? Examining data from China – the biggest internal migration experience in human history – this column finds that migrants from the same village tend to cluster at the same destination for the same occupation. This pattern is driven by social networks within villages that reduce the moving costs for future migrants, such as the risk of not finding a job.

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