A team of researchers at Indiana University is trying to determine where the next economic and geo-industrial hubs will be located using the world’s largest social network, LinkedIn. Getting rare access to the company’s data, the group created the first global map of labor flow. 

The work is reported in the journal Nature Communications.

The IU team was one of 11 initially given access in 2015 to the data for the LinkedIn Economic Graph Challenge. In 2017, the number was pared to two – IU and a team from MIT.

The study’s lead authors are Jaehyuk Park and Ian Wood, Ph.D. students working with Yong Yeol Ahn, a professor at the IU School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering in Bloomington.

They created the map using data on 500 million people who used LinkedIn between 1990 and 2015. From that, the team found 130 million job transitions between more than four million companies. By analyzing the map, the team can get clues as to where the future economy may take society.

“We expect this study will provide a powerful foundation for further systematic analysis of geo-industrial clusters in the context of business strategy, urban economics, regional economics and international development fields — as well as providing useful insights for policymakers and business leaders,” said Jaehyuk Park, the study’ lead author.

The study shows the connection between industries and regions in the U.S. and beyond. It could help policymakers understand how to address skill gaps in the labor market.

The study also may also give job seekers insight into job skills, such as team and project management, needed in the generation ahead as some industries disappear.

Click here to read a blog post from the lead author of the report.

(From left: Azadeh Nematzadeh, Michael Conover, Jaehyuk Park, Yong Yeol “Y.Y.” Ahn, Yizhi Jing and Ian Wood.)

Professor Ahn says the LinkedIn study was a great challenge.