31 October 2019

Adam Sheridan to present “Learning About Social Networks from Mobile Money Transfers” at NABE conference in Seattle

The increasing popularity of mobile money transfer apps is generating population-scale data on real-world social ties through the social exchange of money. I show how data from these apps provides researchers with an opportunity to better comprehend social networks and their role in social and economic behavior.

To do this, I construct a social network from the near universe of person-to-person mobile money transfers in Denmark, based on records from a dominant app used by 80% of the population.

First, I show that mobile money transfers reveal social networks with strikingly similar properties to online social networks, like Facebook, and I use linked data from government registers to provide new insights on the structure of large-scale social networks, such as the extent of segregation across income groups.

Second, I show how these data can be used to answer important questions about how social interactions influence behavior by linking the network with transaction data from a major retail bank and estimating how people change their spending when friends experience income shocks. I find large social multipliers -- relevant for a range of economic policy questions -- with a possible channel through changes in expectations.

Link to conference programe