Geographic Mobility in America: Evidence from Cell Phone Data

37 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020 Last revised: 21 Jun 2021

See all articles by M. Keith Chen

M. Keith Chen

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Devin G. Pope

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: May 2020

Abstract

Traveling beyond the immediate surroundings of one’s residence can lead to greater exposure to new ideas and information, jobs, and greater transmission of disease. In this paper, we document the geographic mobility of individuals in the U.S., and how this mobility varies across U.S. cities, regions, and income classes. Using geolocation data for ~1.7 million smartphone users over a 10-month period, we compute different measures of mobility, including the total distance traveled, the median daily distance traveled, the maximum distance traveled from one’s home, and the number of unique haunts visited. We find large differences across cities and income groups. For example, people in New York travel 38% fewer total kilometers and visit 14% fewer block-sized areas than people in Atlanta. And, individuals in the bottom income quartile travel 12% less overall and visit 13% fewer total locations than the top income quartile.

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Suggested Citation

Chen, Keith and Pope, Devin G., Geographic Mobility in America: Evidence from Cell Phone Data (May 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27072, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3592150

Keith Chen (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/keith.chen/index.html

Devin G. Pope

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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