Group Testing with Homophily to Curb Epidemics with Asymptomatic Carriers

12 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2020 Last revised: 2 Nov 2020

Date Written: October 31, 2020


Contagion happens through heterogeneous interpersonal relations (homophily) which induce contamination clusters. Group testing is increasingly recognized as necessary to fight the asymptomatic transmission of the COVID-19. Still, it is plagued by false negatives. Homophily can be taken into account to design test pools that encompass potential contamination clusters. I show that this makes it possible to overcome the usual information-theoretic limits of group testing, which are based on an implicit homogeneity assumption. Even more interestingly, a multiple-step testing strategy combining this approach with advanced complementary exams for all individuals in pools identified as positive identifies asymptomatic carriers who would be missed even by costly exhaustive individual tests. Recent advances in group testing have brought large gains in efficiency, but within the bounds of the above cited information-theoretic limits, and without tackling the false negatives issue which is crucial for COVID-19. Homophily has been considered in the contagion literature already, but not in order to improve group testing.

Note: Funding: None to declare

Declaration of Interest: None to declare

Keywords: COVID-19, Epidemics, Asymptomatic Carriers, Asymptomatic Transmission, Group Testing, Pooled Testing, RT-PCR, Homophily, Clustering, Information Theory, Dilution, Noisy Tests, False Negative

JEL Classification: I10, I18

Suggested Citation

Harpedanne de Belleville, Louis-Marie and Harpedanne de Belleville, Louis-Marie, Group Testing with Homophily to Curb Epidemics with Asymptomatic Carriers (October 31, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Louis-Marie Harpedanne de Belleville (Contact Author)

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014

Banque de France ( email )


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