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Research Spotlight: How accurate is Facebook’s advertising data for demographers?

Dr Francesco Rampazzo, Lecturer in Demography at the Centre, has co-authored a paper published today in the Royal Statistical Society: Series A, on the accuracy of Facebook advertising data for use in social science research.

The paper is a broad collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR), The University of Chicago, and Saarland University.

In the video below, Dr Francesco Rampazzo discusses the significance of this study and explains how social media advertising data is used to estimate demographic characteristics for social science research.

Social media advertising data is becoming widely used within social science research as it provides a digital census of the population and a useful platform for recruiting participants for survey research.

But how accurate is this data?

This question was explored in the study using insights from a cross-national online survey of over 133,000 Facebook users. The researchers found that around 86-93% of Facebook’s classification on sex, age, and region of residence were correctly classified – with misclassification most likely to occur for region of residence and least likely to occur for sex.

So is Facebook’s advertising data accurate enough for use in social science research?

The paper concludes that it is, if additional steps are taken to assess the accuracy of the characteristics under consideration.

Read the paper here.
Find out more in MPIDR’s Press Release here.

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