Loneliness of Affluence: The Rise of High Income Class Segregation

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From decades of research, sociologists know a lot about human relationships. We know about your friends, your co-workers, and your neighbors. What we do not know is who you see every day or how well you know them. In the course of your Saturday, you might spend five minutes with a neighbor and an hour with a friend, but what happened during the rest of the time? When you exchanged money at the Starbucks or nodded at another parent at your child’s soccer game, you interacted with others, but we know virtually nothing about the collective mass of these interactions or how they shape your perception of the world.

Social network analysis was supposed to provide revolutionary insight into the cause and consequences of interactions, but massive data requirements limited its utility. There is good news, though – the right tools exist to take apart these interactions and study them. By capitalizing on the wealth of data sources inherent to modern technology, we can track the connections between people, not just relationally, but experientially.

The project, currently in data collection, utilizes a nationally-representative sample of 5,000 respondents, with an over-representation of high-income earners. It also utilizes the American Time Use Survey, a subsample of CPS that gathers data on how people spend their time.

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