The Geography of Travel Behavior in the Early Phase of the Covid-19 Pandemic

40 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2020

See all articles by Jeffrey Brinkman

Jeffrey Brinkman

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Kyle Mangum

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; Georgia State University - Department of Economics

Date Written: September, 2020

Abstract

We use a panel of county-level location data derived from cellular devices in the U.S. to track travel behavior and its relationship with COVID-19 cases in the early stages of the outbreak. We find that travel activity dropped significantly as case counts rose locally. People traveled less overall, and they specifically avoided areas with relatively larger outbreaks, independent of government restrictions on mobility. The drop in activity limited exposure to out-of-county virus cases, which we show was important because such case exposure generated new cases inside a county. This suggests the outbreak would have spread faster and to a greater degree had travel activity not dropped accordingly. Our findings imply that the scale and geographic network of travel activity and the travel response of individuals are important for understanding the spread of COVID-19 and for policies that seek to control it.

Keywords: travel behavior, mobility, COVID-19, spatial dynamics, spacial networks, cellular device location

JEL Classification: H11, I18, R11

Suggested Citation

Brinkman, Jeffrey and Mangum, Kyle and Mangum, Kyle, The Geography of Travel Behavior in the Early Phase of the Covid-19 Pandemic (September, 2020). FRB of Philadelphia Working Paper No. 20-38, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3717188 or http://dx.doi.org/10.21799/frbp.wp.2020.38

Jeffrey Brinkman (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States

Kyle Mangum

Georgia State University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 3992
Atlanta, GA 30302-3992
United States

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States

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