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New Research Dives Into the Importance of Long Ties

July 07, 2023

A new research article published July 6 by PNAS builds on decades of social science studies about the importance of long-tie relationships and social networking. The article, Long Ties, Disruptive Life Events, and Economic Prosperity, supports the idea that “identified long ties, which connect people who lack mutual contacts, correlates with individuals’ success within firms and places’ economic prosperity.”

Eaman Jahani

The authors, Eaman JahaniSamuel P. Fraiberger  Michael Bailey, and Dean Eckles, provide evidence of a robust positive relationship between the share of long ties and economic outcomes both at the individual and local levels in the United States and Mexico. Furthermore, we uncover that the formation of long ties is associated with disruptive life events such as migrating to another state or transferring to a different high school, which points to potential mechanisms responsible for forming and maintaining these valuable connections.”


Dean Eckles

Jahani is a researcher at the MIT Sloan School of Management as well as the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, and Eckles is a research lead at the MIT IDE. Among their findings, they state that: “Individual Facebook users in the United States with more long ties have better outcomes along four proxies of socioeconomic well-being, including living in richer zip codes, having more internet-connected devices, more expensive phones, and donating more often to charitable fundraising campaigns.”
In a commentary about the paper published by PNAS, Michael W. Macy  of Cornell, describes the significance of the work in four areas:
  • First,  the authors use Facebook public comments to analyze individual-level differences at the population scale.
  • Second, the authors weight the fraction of long ties by taking into account the intensity of communication between network neighbors.
  • Third, the authors use school closures as an instrument in a quasi-experimental test of the formative impact of adolescent network mobility.
  • Finally, “the paper is a refreshing antidote to the overemphasis in social science on publishing surprising results. Instead, the authors demonstrate the importance of contributing to cumulative knowledge by confirming hypotheses derived from foundational theory while at the same time elaborating on what was previously known by digging deeper into the underlying causal mechanisms.”
Read more about the research on the MIT Sloan web site here.