Social networks existed and shaped our lives long before Silicon Valley startups made them virtual. For over two decades economist Matthew O. Jackson, a professor at Stanford University, has studied how the shape of networks and our positions within them can affect us. In this interview, he explains how network structures can create poverty traps, exacerbate financial crises, and contribute to political polarization. He also explains how a new awareness of the role of networks has been used to improve financial regulation, promote public health knowledge, and guide vaccination strategy.
Jackson also discusses how he first began to study networks, previously neglected by economists, and how economists can both learn from and contribute to the exciting cross-disciplinary dialogue among researchers from sociology, math, physics, and other fields.
Professor Jackson's website provides free access to the chapter on contagion, of particular interest in this time of pandemic. For those who want to learn even more than the book can cover, he offers a free online course on the topic.
Host Peter Lorentzen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of San Francisco, where he leads a new digital economy-focused Master's program in Applied Economics.
Peter Lorentzen is economics professor at the University of San Francisco. He heads USF's Applied Economics Master's program, which focuses on the digital economy. His research is mainly on China's political economy.