MPIDR Working Paper

Online social integration of migrants: evidence from Twitter

Kim, J., Wang Sonne, S. E., Garimella, K., Grow, A., Weber, I. G., Zagheni, E.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2023-012, 23 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (March 2023)
Open Access


As online social activities have become increasingly important for people’s lives and well-being, understanding how migrants integrate into online spaces is crucial for providing a more complete picture of integration processes. We curate a high-quality data set to quantify patterns of new online social connections among immigrants in the United States. Specifically, we focus on Twitter, and leverage the unique features of these data, in combination with a propensity score matching technique, to isolate the effects of migration events on social network formation. The results indicate that migration events led to an expansion of migrants' networks of friends on Twitter in the destination country, relative to those of users who had similar characteristics, but who did not move. We found that male migrants between 19 and 29 years old who actively posted more tweets in English after migration also tended to have more local friends after migration compared to other demographic group, which indicates that migrants' demographic characteristics and language skills can affect their level of integration. We also observed that the percentage of migrants' friends who were from their country of origin decreased in the first few years after migration, and increased again in later years. Finally, unlike for migrants' friends networks, which were under their control, we did not find any evidence that migration events expanded migrants' networks of followers in the destination country. While following users on Twitter in theory is not a geographically constrained process, our work shows that offline (re)location plays a significant role in the formation of online networks. 

Keywords: America, World, immigrants, immigration, integration, social network
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.