People from higher social classes have fewer friends outside of their own country, according to a new research that analyzed 57 billion friendships on Facebook.
Researchers found that despite the fact that, arguably, people from higher social classes should be better positioned to travel and meet people from different countries, when it comes to friendship networks, people from those groups had lower levels of internationalism and made more friends domestically than abroad.
Researchers said that the results are in line with the hypothesis that high-social class individuals have greater resources, and therefore tend to be less socially engaged, particularly with those from groups other than their own.
The research team conducted two studies - one local and one global, with the global study using a dataset of billions of Facebook friendships — and the results from both supported the idea of restricting social class.
However, the researchers said the fact that those of lower social status tend to have more international connections demonstrates how low-social class people "may actually stand to benefit most from a highly international and globalized social world".
"The findings point to the possibility that the wealthy stay more in their own social bubble, but this is unlikely to be ultimately beneficial," said co-author Aleksandr Spectre, from the University of Cambridge's Department of Psychology.
"If you are not engaging internationally then you will miss out on that international resource - that flow of new ideas and information," said Spectre.
For the 'local' study, the team recruited 857 people in the US and asked them to self-report their perceived social status, as well as an objective indicator in the form of annual household income.
The volunteers also provided researchers access to their Facebook networks. The results from the first study indicated that low-social class people have nearly 50 per cent more international friends than high-social class people.
For the second study, researchers used data provided by Facebook on every friendship formed over the network in every country in the world at the national aggregate level for 2011. The dataset included over 57 billion friendships.
The researchers quantified social class on a national level based on each country's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita data for 2011 as published by the World Bank.
After controlling for many variables the researchers again found a negative correlation between social class - this time on a national level - and the percentage of Facebook friends from other countries.
For people from low-social class countries, 35 per cent of their friendships on average were international, compared to 28 per cent average in high-social class countries.
(The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.)