MPIDR Working Paper

How reliable is Facebook’s advertising data for use in social science research? Insights from a cross-national online survey

Grow, A., Perrotta, D., Del Fava, E., Cimentada, J., Rampazzo, F., Gil-Clavel, B. S., Zagheni, E., Flores, R. D., Ventura, I., Weber, I. G.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2021-006, 41 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (April 2021)
Open Access


Social scientists increasingly use Facebook’s advertising platform for research, either in the form of conducting digital censuses of the general population, or for recruiting participants for survey research. Both approaches depend on the reliability of the data that Facebook provides about its users, but little is known about how reliable these data are. We address this gap in a large-scale, cross-national online survey (N = 137,224), in which we compare self-reported and Facebook-classified demographic information (sex, age, and region of residence). Our results suggest that Facebook’s advertising platform can be fruitfully used for conducing social science research if additional steps are taken to assess the reliability of the characteristics under consideration.  

Keywords: World, digital demography, population censuses, social network, surveys
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.