Social Distancing, Internet Access and Inequality

32 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2020 Last revised: 12 Nov 2020

See all articles by Lesley Chiou

Lesley Chiou

Occidental College - Department of Economics

Catherine E. Tucker

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: Novemberr 10, 2020

Abstract

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

Chiou, Lesley and Tucker, Catherine E., Social Distancing, Internet Access and Inequality (Novemberr 10, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3568255 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3568255

Lesley Chiou

Occidental College - Department of Economics ( email )

1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.faculty.oxy.edu/lchiou

Catherine E. Tucker (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS) ( email )

100 Main St
E62-536
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cetucker.scripts.mit.edu

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