This is the sort of thing that economists get excited about and it is also undoubtedly where a lot of economic research is going to be done in the coming decades. These vast sets of “big data” that the various social networks and search engines are collecting will be mined for the answers to many a question I’m sure.
Here the title="Facebook">Facebook team have been able to connect two interesting pieces of information from the standard personal profiles and use them to show something about migration patterns. This is something that the standard economic data doesn’t collect very well.
Specifically, they’re interested in whether we can see coordinated migration. Is there a significant portion of the people identified as being originally from one town now living in another? Is there some large percentage of people originally from one town now living in another? To the point that we can say that 20% of all people originally from X now live in Y? And yes, they do find that happening but the most interesting part to me is this:
Rapidly urbanizing cities attract population from the neighboring cities, most often within the same country. Depending on how centralized a country is, there might be a single hub attracting people from the entire country (as seen in West Africa) or different hubs as seen in South-East Asia and even more strongly in India.
Note that London, in my native UK, is one of those hub cities that is attracting so much immigration. And also note that it’s the only developed world city that is. And think not of the immigration for a moment but that existence of a hub instead. London dominates the UK in a manner that no single city really dominates the economy of any other advanced country. This is one of the things that helps in understanding the UK in fact. For example, UK inequality figures are distinctly skewed by the fact that the high incomes are disproportionately in London, but then so also are the high costs of living. By measuring income inequality we are vastly over-estimating consumption inequality: it being that last that we should be worrying about of course.
It’s a general observation that most of the UK is a pretty average northern European country and economy: but London is now part of the great global economy with wages and pries to match. This dive into Facebook’s data supports that view.