COVID-19 Attack Rate Increases with City Size

23 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2020 Last revised: 9 Jun 2020

See all articles by Andrew Stier

Andrew Stier

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology

Marc Berman

The University of Chicago

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

Date Written: March 30, 2020

Abstract

The current outbreak of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) poses an unprecedented global health and economic threat to interconnected human societies. Until a vaccine is developed, strategies for controlling the outbreak rely on aggressive social distancing. These measures largely disconnect the social network fabric of human societies, especially in urban areas. Here, we estimate the growth rates and reproductive numbers of COVID-19 in US cities from March 14th through March 19th to reveal a power-law scaling relationship to city population size. This means that COVID-19 is spreading faster on average in larger cities with the additional implication that, in an uncontrolled outbreak, larger fractions of the population are expected to become infected in more populous urban areas. We discuss the implications of these observations for controlling the COVID-19 outbreak, emphasizing the need to implement more aggressive distancing policies in larger cities while also preserving socioeconomic activity.

Suggested Citation

Stier, Andrew and Berman, Marc and Bettencourt, Luis, COVID-19 Attack Rate Increases with City Size (March 30, 2020). Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation Research Paper No. 19, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3564464

Andrew Stier (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology ( email )

5848 S. University Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Marc Berman

The University of Chicago ( email )

5848 S. University
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation ( email )

5735 S Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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