Mobility Patterns and Income Distribution in Times of Crisis: U.S. Urban Centers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

13 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2020

Date Written: April 9, 2020

Abstract

If a policy aimed at containing an epidemic relies on lockdown, then the ability of people to comply with the lockdown will affect how effectively the disease is contained. This paper presents widespread evidence that, during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the decline in human mobility during lockdown happened at different speeds for high vs. low income groups within most cities. We call this phenomenon the mobility gap, and find strong evidence of it throughout urban centers all over the country. We hypothesize that income is a proxy for differences in labor market flexibility across high and low paying jobs, which affects compliance with a lockdown policy to contain a disease. In particular, we argue that lockdown imposes low income groups with a stringent choice between health and income that can have devastating short- and long-term effects on household finances. The evidence we present here is consistent with this hypothesis for urban areas. We conclude with a discussion about future research to understand better the interplay between income differences and epidemiological containment policies based on mobility reduction.

Keywords: human mobility, income distribution, COVID19, crisis, pandemic, lockdown, income inequality

Suggested Citation

Ruiz-Euler, Alex and Privitera, Filippo and Giuffrida, Danilo and Lake, Brennan and Zara, Ilenia, Mobility Patterns and Income Distribution in Times of Crisis: U.S. Urban Centers During the COVID-19 Pandemic (April 9, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3572324 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3572324

Alex Ruiz-Euler (Contact Author)

Cuebiq ( email )

15 W 27th St
9th floor
New York City, NY 10001
United States

Filippo Privitera

Cuebiq

15 W 27th St
9th floor
New York City, NY 10001
United States

Danilo Giuffrida

Cuebiq

15 W 27th St
9th floor
New York City, NY 10001
United States

Brennan Lake

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Ilenia Zara

Cuebiq

15 W 27th St
9th floor
New York City, NY 10001
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
381
Abstract Views
2,056
rank
96,212
PlumX Metrics