People Economics

Tracking Inequality to Ease Social Tensions

, by Andrea Costa
Carlo Schwarz wins funding from Fondazione Cariplo for a targeted, interdisciplinary approach to social analysis

The idea of inequality is one of the strong, if not the strongest, driving factors behind the rise of populism. A project by Carlo Schwarz of Bocconi's Department of Economics as principal investigator and Dirk Hovy of the Department of Computing Sciences, which aims to gauge the perception of inequality in Italy adopting a multidisciplinary approach, has been granted financial backing by Fondazione Cariplo.

The MENTALISM (Measuring, Tracking, and Analyzing Inequality using Social Media) project will combine modern social media analysis with traditional survey data to track inequality across Italy. A mixed-methods approach is going to use machine learning and text analysis to trace online grievances in a vast corpus of social media data. Combining these methods with survey protocols and econometric analysis to validate the findings will help provide recommendations for actionable policies.

The idea is to combine the advantages of social media data (high frequency, individual-level information) with the strength of socio-economic surveys (representativeness).

"A nuanced understanding is crucial to developing new pathways for more effective and better-targeted countermeasures. Our findings will contribute to inequality research across various fields and help reduce sources of inequality by tackling them early on," comments Carlo Schwarz.