Research highlight

Statistical physics: Social networks can predict economic status

Nature Communications

May 17, 2017

The economic status of an individual can be mathematically predicted by analysing their position within their social network, reports a study published online in Nature Communications. This method for determining the financial status within a population could be used for targeted social campaigns.

It is intuitive that different levels of personal wealth would be reflected in people’s social network of contacts and relations. However, quantifying this relationship is challenging.

Analysing telecommunications and financial data of Mexico’s population, Hernan Makse and colleagues could show that an individual’s location in the network formed by all the phone call communications is highly correlated with their personal economic status (as measured by their credit card limits). As a demonstration of their theory, the authors carried out a campaign for marketing financial products. Targeting individuals expected to be wealthy on the basis of the structure of their social network achieved a considerably higher response rate as opposed to random targeting.

These results demonstrate how telecommunications data contain a wealth of quantitative information on users, which can be exploited for targeted social campaigns. However, the authors note that the datasets generated and/or analysed in this study are not publicly available for privacy reasons.

doi: 10.1038/NCOMMS15227

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