The Local Structures of Human Mobility in Chicago

20 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2019 Last revised: 10 Jun 2020

See all articles by James Saxon

James Saxon

University of Chicago / Center for Data and Computing

Date Written: October 9, 2019


A large literature establishes the role of mobility in the maintenance of neighborhood social structures. Jane Jacobs famously argued that social capital is maintained through “cross-use of space,” and James Coleman formalized its dependence on the “closure” of human interactions. Since many of these interactions entail human movement, neighborhoods with higher social capital should be distinguishable by more cohesive mobility networks. I observe the mobility of Chicago residents through a large dataset of smartphone users. I construct a neighborhood-level mobility network for the city and characterize neighborhoods according to their local graph structure. Neighborhoods that are well integrated with their surroundings have higher income and educational attainment. Consistent with social capital theory and routine activity theory in criminology, higher local network integration independently predicts lower levels of violent and property crime. The methodologies presented provide a meaningful, replicable, and inexpensive approach to the structural measurement of neighborhood networks and social structure.

Keywords: neighborhoods, closure, clustering, social capital, networks, urban, crime, cell phones, big data

Suggested Citation

Saxon, James, The Local Structures of Human Mobility in Chicago (October 9, 2019). Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation Research Paper No. 13, Available at SSRN: or

James Saxon (Contact Author)

University of Chicago / Center for Data and Computing ( email )

Chicago, IL
United States


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