Social networks play a predominant role in how information spreads between individuals. Previous studies within firms suggest that long ties, which connect people who lack mutual contacts, give workers access to valuable information. However, we lack evidence on broader links between long ties and economic outcomes, and how some people tend to have more such ties is still unknown. Using population-scale data from Facebook, we examine how long ties are formed and establish their link with important economic outcomes. First, we show that administrative units with a higher proportion of long ties tend to have higher income and economic mobility. Similar associations hold for individuals’ networks and proxies of economic well-being: people with more long ties own more expensive phones, live in higher income places, and have made more charitable donations. Furthermore, having stronger long ties is associated with better outcomes, consistent with an advantage from the structural diversity constituted by long ties and not necessarily their strength.Second, we uncover the role of disruptive life events in the formation of long ties later in life. Individuals who have migrated between US states, have transferred to a different high school, or have attended college outside their home state have a higher proportion of long ties among their contacts many years after the event. They also exhibit better outcomes along the three economic well-being proxies.Overall, these results suggest that long ties contribute to economic prosperity and highlight the role played by important life experiences in developing and maintaining long ties.