Social Networks Lab


Using big data to understand interactions within social networks and neighborhoods and to develop new interventions to reduce segregation


The networks of social connections in which all people are embedded have profound effects on social and economic mobility, employment, physical and mental health, access to information, participation in sociopolitical and religious life, and many other everyday experiences. Indeed, the country’s most important social problems often take the form of “network problems,” with examples including loneliness, the spread of disease, and unequal access to advantageous social connections. Because healthy networks are critical for social health, it’s important to build research tools that can be used to examine which neighborhoods, social groups, or schools and universities have healthy networks. CPI’s Social Networks Lab is advancing research in this area by developing a nationally-representative “big data” network dataset, drawing on anonymized cellphone data, that includes a rich set of economic, demographic, and other variables.

This dataset can be used to examine the sources of loneliness, the causal effects of neighborhood policy on social interactions, racial and ethnic differences in social interaction, and much more. To date, our team has completed both an early policy study that identified restaurants as a primary source of COVID-19 infections, and a basic science study showing that, contrary to conventional expectations, large cities promote segregation by supporting restaurants, shopping centers, and other venues that are targeted to very narrow socioeconomic groups (such as fancy restaurants for the one percent).

CPI Collaborators

Jure Leskovec's picture Jure Leskovec Professor of Computer Science
Stanford University
Beth Redbird's picture Beth Redbird Assistant Professor of Sociology
Northwestern University