Social Distancing, Internet Access and Inequality
26 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2020 Last revised: 20 Apr 2020
Date Written: April 17, 2020
This paper measures the role of the diffusion of high-speed Internet on an individual's ability to self-isolate during a global pandemic. We use data that track 19 million mobile devices and their movements across physical locations, and whether the mobile devices leave their homes that day. We show that while income is correlated with differences in the ability to stay at home, the unequal diffusion of high-speed Internet drives much of this observed income effect. We examine compliance with state-level directives to remain at home. Devices in regions with either high-income or high-speed Internet are less likely to leave their homes after such a directive. However, the combination of having both high income and high-speed Internet appears to be the biggest driver of propensity to stay at home. Our results suggest that the digital divide --- or the fact that income and home Internet access are correlated --- appears to explain much inequality we observe in an individual's ability to self-isolate.
Keywords: Coronavirus, Global Pandemic, Internet, Inequality, Social Distancing
JEL Classification: L96, M15, I28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation