Social Distancing, Internet Access and Inequality
32 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2020 Last revised: 12 Nov 2020
Date Written: Novemberr 10, 2020
This paper measures how high-speed internet affects an individual's ability to self-isolate during a global pandemic. Our data track the movements of 19 million mobile devices and whether a mobile device leaves its home that day. We examine compliance with state-level directives to remain at home. In general, the presence of a combination of high income and high-speed internet was a larger driver in households staying at home than state directives. Devices in regions with either high-income or high-speed internet were also more likely to stay at home after such a directive. Furthermore, the combination of higher income and high-speed internet has a self-reinforcing effect. This appears to be mainly driven by telecommuting rather than the ability of higher-income households to use the internet to avoid store visits. Our results suggest that the digital divide explains much of the 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