Showing Our Work on Social Connectedness

Eva Hamer
December 5, 2022
Part 1 of this series describes how some communities are connected through wide bridges.

This piece contains the processed data informing the findings we present in Where the Animal Movement will be Reborn. We recommend reading that piece first if you haven't already, then coming back here if you want to see the data.


Data was drawn from Meta’s Social Connectedness Index. We used Python to draw out data for each of the counties in which we were interested, adding data on the census population of each county. I examined the data for each county and noted more counties that showed up between the different counties’ data sets. Data for each of these is included except for Arlington, VA, which appears to be highly connected to many counties, we suspect because of its proximity to Washington D.C. While it shows up as a top connector for many of our interesting counties, these counties are not also a high connector for it. That is, if you live in Boulder County, you’re more likely to have a Facebook friend in Arlington County, VA than many other counties across the country, but someone in Arlington is not particularly likely to have a Facebook friend in Boulder or the other counties in which we’re interested. Hennepin, MN (Minneapolis) and Davidson, TN (Nashville) behaved similarly, showing up as top connectors for the interesting cities but without a mutual connection in most cases. 

I first examined data for Boulder CO, Alameda (Berkeley CA), Multnomah (Portland OR), and Buncombe (Asheville NC). After examining these data, I examined the data for other counties, which frequently appeared as connectors to the initial counties. Counties with less than 200,000 people were filtered out in all cases, because small populations have less potential for connections in general, and because small numbers are easier to skew, such as by one family moving from one county to another. 

Counties in the same state and in neighboring states were filtered out as well because geography is already a well-established predictor of connectedness. However, because California and Texas are large states with interesting areas near their geographical centers, neighboring states were not excluded from their data. 

For each county, after filtering the data, I recorded a list of the counties that appeared, in order. When several or more counties outside the targets appeared before one of the target counties, I recorded the target counties with a number, which indicates that counties rank in connectedness out of 3192, the total number of counties included in the dataset. Note that this does not account for filtering, so in general, there wasn’t a huge difference in the rank of the last county listed in order and the first one listed with a rank number. 

Top 10 connectedness indicates that after filtering, a county appeared as one of the first 10 listed. Top 10% connectedness indicates that the county’s rank is 319 or less. Top 10% connectedness is usually only slightly broader than Top 10. 

Hypothesis Counties

Boulder, CO

Boulder seems to be very well connected to the other counties we examined, appearing in the top 10 connectedness with all of them, and having all of the target counties in the top 10% of its connectedness. While Arlington VA, which is next to Washington DC, was highly connected with all of the counties we looked at, these counties didn’t appear as its most connected counties. In fact, with the exclusion of Arlington, each of the counties that appear as high out-of-area matches with Boulder is also highly connected with each other. Jefferson county, near Boulder and Denver, also often appears highly connected to the relevant counties. 

  1. Marin County CA 
  2. San Fransico CA
  3. Buncombe NC
  4. Santa Cruz CA
  5. Multnomah OR
  6. Arlington VA 
  7. Travis TX 
  8. Dane WI 
  9. Washtenaw MI
  10. Hawaii HI
  11. Hennepin MN 217
  12. Davidson TN 253

Alameda, CA (Berkeley)

The Bay Area is highly connected to the counties we looked at. San Francisco, like Arlington, is a highly connected area in general, but Alameda county’s data displays a unique and mutual connection with the other areas- Boulder, Portland, Ann Arbor, and Austin. Its connection with Nashville and Minneapolis is also in the top 10% of connectedness. 

  1. Washoe NV 
  2. Multnomah OR 
  3. King WA 
  4. Boulder CO
  5. Hawaii HI
  6. Clark NV
  7. Honolulu HI
  8. Deschutes OR 
  9. Jackson OR
  10. Suffolk MA 
  11. Denver CO
  12. Arlington VA
  13. Travis TX 
  14. Middlesex MA 
  15. Kitsap WA
  16. Washtenaw MI 
  17. Davidson TN 165
  18. Hennepin MN 190

Multnomah, OR (Portland)

Washington and Idaho were filtered out as neighboring states. Californian states were initially not filtered out in order to examine the connectedness with the target Bay Area counties. As hypothesized, they ranked high in connectedness with Multnomah, in addition to Santa Cruz, which was later added to the list of target areas.  When CA counties were filtered out, the further counties appeared as highly connected. 

  1. San Fransisco CA
  2. Hawaii HI
  3. Marin CA 
  4. Santa Cruz CA
  5. Boulder CO
  6. Denver CO
  7. Sonoma CA
  8. Alameda CA
  9. (Others in CA)
  10. Travis TX
  11. Buncombe NC
  12. Jefferson CO (near Boulder and Denver)
  13. Hennepin MN 
  14. Arlington VA
  15. Clark NV
  16. Utah UT
  17. Maricopa AZ 
  18. Dane WI 
  19. Washtenaw MI 297
  20. Davidson TN 300

Buncombe, NC (Asheville)

While Buncombe, NC was highly connected to the other areas we examined, its highest connections were in the broader geographical area. Only when bordering states (SC, TN, VA, GA)  and also nearby states (FL, KY) were excluded did our target cities show up as its top connections. Given the size of North Carolina and its neighboring states when compared with the larger Western states, this probably does not indicate a lower level of connectivity than the other areas have. Low connectedness with Dane, WI, and Washtenaw, MI is noted. 

  1. Boulder CO (even has a higher score than many NC counties)
  2. Denver CO
  3. Arlington VA
  4. Marin CA
  5. Cumberland ME 
  6. Jefferson CO
  7. Larimer CO
  8. Multnomah OR
  9. Henrico VA
  10. Hawaii HI
  11. Jefferson AL
  12. San Francisco CA
  13. Travis TX
  14. Deschutes OR
  15. Baldwin AL
  16. Santa Cruz CA
  17. Chesterfield VA
  18. Jackson OR
  19. Washtenaw MI 637
  20. Dane WI 789
  21. Hennepin MN 1030

Travis, TX (Austin)

Travis seems slightly less connected than the others, but all of the target areas are still relatively high, though Santa Cruz and Hawaii fall outside the top 10%.   

  1. Denver CO
  2. San Francisco CA
  3. Boulder CO
  4. Arlington VA
  5. Davidson TN
  6. Jefferson CO 287
  7. Marin CA 295
  8. Multnomah OR 311
  9. Buncombe NC 352
  10. Washtenaw MI 358
  11. Alameda CA 372
  12. Dane WI 391
  13. Santa Cruz CA 409
  14. Hawaii HI 489

Dane, WI (Madison)

I filtered out Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan as neighboring states. Buncombe, Alameda, Santa Cruz, and Hawaii fall outside the top 10%. Multnomah and Travis are the nextmost connected counties after Hamilton, IN, afterwhich only target counties are listed. 

  1. Boulder CO
  2. Denver CO
  3. Lake IN
  4. Larimer CO
  5. Jefferson CO
  6. SF CA
  7. Arlington VA
  8. Davidson TN
  9. Douglas CO
  10. Hamilton IN
  11. Multnomah OR 276
  12. Travis TX 290
  13. Buncombe NC 413
  14. Alameda CA 552
  15. Santa Cruz CA 712
  16. Hawaii HI 759

Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz is geographically close to the Bay Area counties but not directly next to them, and with the exception of Dane, all of the interesting counties are in the top 10%. Santa Cruz is about two hours from Berkeley by car, or about three hours via public transit.

  1. Deschutes OR
  2. Jackson OR
  3. Hawaii HI
  4. Washoe NV
  5. Multnomah OR
  6. Boulder CO
  7. Lane OR
  8. Whatcom WA
  9. Clackamas OR
  10. King WA 135
  11. Denver CO 138
  12. Buncombe NC 148
  13. Travis TX 172
  14. Jefferson CO 182
  15. Davidson TN 291
  16. Dane WI 351
  17. Hennepin MN 372

Washtenaw, MI (Ann Arbor)

I filtered out Ohio, IL, and IN as neighboring states. WI didn’t show up in the data very frequently, even though Michigan’s upper peninsula borders Wisconsin, perhaps explained by Ann Arbor being in the Southeast corner of Michigan, furthest from Wisconsin. These data are presented without excluding Wisconsin. 

  1. SF CA
  2. Boulder CO
  3. Dane WI
  4. Arlington VA
  5. Suffolk MA
  6. Denver CO
  7. Durham NC
  8. Davidson TN
  9. Travis TX 163
  10. Hennepin MN 168
  11. Alameda CA 175
  12. Multnomah 188
  13. Buncombe 212
  14. Santa Cruz 358
  15. Hawaii 566

Hawaii, HI 

Our Bay Area counties show up as the most connected, and Portland is still in the top 10, as are Boulder and Buncombe. If we exclude CA and OR as neighboring states, then Boulder is #3. Travis and Dane fall outside of the top 10%.

  1. Santa Cruz CA
  2. Deschutes OR
  3. Clark NV
  4. Utah UT
  5. Jackson OR
  6. Multnomah OR
  7. Boulder CO 118
  8. Denver 235
  9. Buncombe 247
  10. Travis TX 396
  11. Hennepin 463
  12. Dane WI 706
  13. Davidson 594

Denver, CO 

None of our target counties are in Denver’s Top 10, but the majority are in the top 10%. Hawaii and Santa Cruz fall just outside the top 10% connectedness, while Alameda is around the 15th percentile. Denver and Boulder are about an hour apart by both car and public transit- close enough that activists living in one could access the other for events without staying overnight.

  1. Travis TX 118
  2. Hennepin MN 141
  3. Davidson TN 147
  4. Dane WI 166
  5. Multnomah OR 174
  6. Buncombe NC 203
  7. Hawaii HI 330
  8. Santa Cruz 391
  9. Alameda CA 468

Examined Counties with Low Connectedness

Hennepin, MN (Minnepolis) 

Iowa and Wisconsin were filtered out. While Hennepin shows up as a high connector for many of the interesting cities, only Boulder is a top connector for it, though Multnomah falls just outside of the top 10%. 

  1. Denver CO
  2. Cook IL
  3. Douglas NE
  4. Boulder CO
  5. Jefferson CO
  6. Larimer CO
  7. Lancaster NE
  8. Champaign IL
  9. San Francisco CA
  10.  Multnomah OR 395
  11. Washtenaw MI 423
  12. Davidson TN 434
  13. Travis TX 480
  14. Hawaii HI 581
  15. Buncombe NC 650
  16. Alameda CA 671
  17. Santa Cruz CA 780

Davidson, TN (Nashville)

Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi were filtered out to reveal Buncombe NC as the top connection, which is in a bordering state, and Denver as the third highest. With the exception of Buncombe and Travis, all of the interesting counties fell outside of the top 10%. 

  1. Buncombe NC
  2. Arlington VA
  3. Denver CO
  4. Travis TX 329
  5. Boulder CO 418
  6. Washtenaw MI 440
  7. Dane WI 655
  8. Multnomah OR 817
  9. Alameda CA 1441
  10. Santa Cruz CA 1519

Any questions about our methodology? Comment below!

Get updates from Pax Fauna

Don't miss our next blog about animal freedom and grassroots strategy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Be the First to Hear About Our Cutting- Edge Research

Get updates from Pax Fauna

"*" indicates required fields