Friendships that cut across class lines are a key indicator of economic mobility and can help alleviate inequality, according to a new research in the United States.

The study analysed Facebook friendships of 72 million people.

The study found that poor children who grew up with wealthy friends had, on average, 20 per cent higher incomes later in life than other poor kids. In fact, researchers discovered that other forms of social capital, such as having affluent parents or attending top-notch schools, are less significant indicators of upward economic mobility than friendships between rich and poor individuals.

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A project led by researchers and collaborators at the Harvard University-based nonprofit Opportunity Insights, which studies barriers to economic opportunities conducted the study, which was published in a journal named Nature. The research was led by Harvard economist Raj Chetty.

“Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids’ outcomes and gives them a better shot at rising out of poverty,” said Raj Chetty while talking to The New York Times.