Measuring Diversity on Facebook

My colleagues on the Facebook Data Team recently posted the results of a study about the diversity of the Facebook user base.

Relative Saturation of Ethnicities on Facebook

Using surnames from users in the United States and comparing the rates at which those surnames occur in several ethnic populations, they were able to estimate the proportion of Facebook users within different populations over time. The graphic shows a time series of the estimated percentage of U.S. Facebook users from each of 4 races/ethnicities, normalized by the expected percentage. In other words, a value of 100% means the population in question has the same proportional representation on Facebook as it does in the census data. A value over 100% means the population is over-indexed among Facebook users, and a value under 100% means the population is under-represented on Facebook. It appears that Facebook has always been fairly diverse, and apart from over-indexing for Asians/Pacific Islanders the user population is now reasonably representative of the Internet using population in the U.S.

For more details on the study, including the estimation and modeling approaches used, check out the original note on the data team page, or Cameron Marlow’s full repost.  Lars Backstrom, Jonathan Chang, Cameron Marlow and Itamar Rosenn conducted this research.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. One problem with this analysis is that it tends to support the idea of population representation. yet the problem is that access and use are two dependent events. Minorities have less access to the Internet. The members of minorities groups using the net or facebook are a self selected group of high technological skills. yet minorities overall continue to be disadvantaged in access. Is similar to the results of reverse discrimination as the ones getting ahead are the ones that do not need the policy

  2. It’s worth noting that this is not a digital divide analysis, and the only real claim is that Facebook’s U.S. user population is representative of Internet users in the U.S.

    According to the full post, the expected population for each group is based upon expected Internet usage within the given ethnicity. Facebook, then is representative of Internet users in the U.S., but it is only representative of the U.S. population to the extent that the U.S. Internet users are representative of the U.S. population. According to the external data source used by the Facebook team (I believe it’s the pdf here: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/reports/2008/Table_HouseholdInternet2007.pdf ), whites and Asians are over-indexed relative to other ethnic groups in terms of their Internet usage.

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