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Is Social Media Elitist?

Social Media Swirl Credit: Dreamstime

You already know social media can help get you a job, but new research suggests that's much more likely to be the case for higher-level managerial jobs than it is for low-paying jobs.

Researchers at North Carolina State University show that informal social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn play an important role when it comes to finding jobs in both the United States and Germany, but those networks are significantly more important for high-paying jobs in the United States, which may contribute to economic inequality, the researchers speculate.

The researchers looked at nationally representative survey data from the United States and Germany to compare the extent to which people find new jobs through "informal recruitment." Informal recruitment via social media occurs when a person who is not looking for a new job is approached with a job opportunity through social connections.

The study shows that, on average, informal recruitment is significantly more common in Germany, where approximately 40 percent of jobs are filled through informal recruitment,  as opposed to approximately 27 percent of jobs in the United States.

However, the jobs people find through informal recruitment in the United States are much more likely to be high-wage managerial positions. Specifically, in the United States, the odds that a job will be filled via informal recruitment increase by 2 percent for every dollar of hourly wage that the job pays.

For example, the odds that jobs paying $40 per hour ($80,000 per year) will be filled through informal recruitment are about 66 percent better than the odds that a minimum-wage job ($7.25 per hour) will be filled through informal social media recruitment.

By comparison, the researchers found that wages in Germany did not appear to be linked to how workers found their jobs.

 The finding was surprising since in the United States a free market with minimal labor restrictions is believed to value merit over social connections, said Richard Benton, a Ph.D. candidate at NC State who co-authored the research.

 "Ultimately, this suggests that U.S. economic institutions offer greater rewards to sponsorship and nepotism than what we see elsewhere, which could help to explain why inequality is so extreme here," said Steve McDonald, an associate professor of sociology at NC State and lead author of the paper.

The paper was published online in the journal Social Forces. The paper was co-authored by David Warner of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The research was supported by NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.