Studying health and migration using social media: tools for survey participant recruitment complement digital trace data

the Monday 01 February 2021 at l’Ined, en visioconférence de 11h30 à 12h30

Presented by: Emilio Zagheni (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research) ; Discussant: Myriam Khlat (Ined)

Passively-collected information about social media users as well as posts and related content have been increasingly used for demographic research related to health and migration. These digital traces, often made available via advertisement platforms, offer new insights into socio-demographic processes, but also have a number of imperfections and limitations. The same advertisement platforms can be used as a tool to rapidly recruit survey participants across countries and to reach hard-to-reach populations.

This talk discusses recent work done at MPIDR to complement the two approaches. It concentrates on two main components: (i) assessing cultural assimilation of Mexican immigrants in the US via Facebook data, as well as via a Facebook migration survey that is about to be fielded; (ii) the Covid-19 Health Behavior Survey: an online opt-in survey based on targeted Facebook advertising campaigns across eight countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States), that was conducted daily from March 13 to August 12, resulting in 144,034 completed questionnaires. This survey collected information on people’s health, attitudes, behaviors, and social contacts. The talk discusses methodological approaches to correct for biases and to combine digital trace data with survey estimates, as well as provides initial substantive results from these initiatives.


Emilio Zagheni is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) and Affiliate Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington, where he served as Training Director of the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology. He received his Ph.D. in Demography (2010) and M.A. in Statistics (2008) from U.C. Berkeley. Zagheni is best known for his work on combining digital trace data and traditional sources to track and understand migrations and to advance population science. In 2016 he received the Trailblazer Award for Demographic Analysis from the European Association for Population Studies for his role in developing the field of Digital and Computational Demography. As co-chair of the Digital Demography Panel of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, he has played a key role in favoring collaboration and exchange between demographers, statisticians and computational social scientists.