Interaction Diversity to Measure Social Capital: a data-driven analysis of north-south divide in Italy

 

Academic Track

The idea

Social capital refers “to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society's social interactions. Increasing evidence shows that social capital is critical for societies to prosper economically and for development to be sustainable” (The World Bank). The creation of a reliable data-driven social capital measure, based on actual social interactions, would be extremely important to really understand the economy of a region and to promote economic policies to boost competitiveness.

The goal of this project is to introduce and validate a new measure of social capital.

A large number of works spanning economics, urban planning, sociology, and data science highlights the role of diversity as a key element for socio-economic development. Our idea is to analyze diversity vs synchronization of telecommunication events (how much people synchronize during the day and across the region), and use diversity as a measure of social capital. We analyzed several data from Telecom Big Data Challenge with the goal of highlighting differences in interaction diversity between northern and southern regions in Italy. This is an ideal playground because they share the same institutions, language, currency, while presenting very different levels of economic development and social capital. Results show a notable difference in interaction diversity. Moreover, we found that diversity well correlates with several socio-economic metrics such as pro-capita income, working conditions and schooling.

These results can suggest new policy interventions to identify where social capital is missing, and to promote social capital and modernize the organization of economic activities via incentivizing diversity.

 
 

The Team

UNIMORE

Marco Mamei is associate professor in Computer Science at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. He received the PhD in Computer Science from the same University in 2004. He has been visiting researcher at Telecom Italia Lab (IT), Nokia Research Center (USA), Harvard University (USA), Cycorp Europe (SLO) and Yahoo Research (ES). His current research interests include mobility data analysis and applications for pervasive and mobile computing.

Francesca Pancotto is associate professor in Political Economy at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. She received her PhD in Economics at Sant’Anna School in Advanced Studies in Pisa, and Laurea in Economics at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan. She has been visiting researcher at UTS Sydney, AUT Auckland, and post-doctoral scholar at HEC in Belgium. Her current research focuses on behavioral economics and finance.

 

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