Economically-Motivated Interactions and Disease Spread

22 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2020

See all articles by Wilbur John Coleman

Wilbur John Coleman

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business-Economics Group

Date Written: August 10, 2020


Human interaction is largely centered on interactions at home, school, work, and shopping. This economically-motivated partial spatial compartmentalization of our lives, in particular the persistent and recurring interaction with a very limited number of people, is surely of first-order importance for the modeling of disease spread that depends on human contact. This paper models the movement of people throughout the day to match data on the distribution of households by size and age of occupants, the distribution of K-12 schools and colleges by size and staff-student ratios, and the distribution of office and retail establishments by number of employees. The spread of disease calibrated to COVID-19 characteristics is significantly less in this model than in a corresponding SIR model in which people interact in one large location. Simulations of this model also reveal that large-scale compliance to a mitigation policy only directing symptomatic people to stay home is sufficient to control the widespread of a disease such as COVID-19, without any noticeable employment effects. A partial lockdown policy is also shown to control the widespread of such a disease, but at a cost of considerable employment effects.

Note: Funding: None to declare

Declaration of Interest: None to declare

Keywords: SIR, COVID-19, epidemic, disease spread mitigation

JEL Classification: C6, I10

Suggested Citation

Coleman, Wilbur John, Economically-Motivated Interactions and Disease Spread (August 10, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Wilbur John Coleman (Contact Author)

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business-Economics Group ( email )

Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0097
United States
(919) 660-7962 (Phone)
(919) 660-7971 (Fax)

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

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics