COVID-19 and Social Distancing: Disparities in Mobility Adaptation by Income

14 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2020

See all articles by Kentaro Iio

Kentaro Iio

Traf-IQ, Inc.

Xiaoyu Guo

Texas A&M University - Zachry Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Xiaoqiang Kong

Texas A&M University - Zachry Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Kelly Rees

None

Xiubin Wang

Texas A&M University - Zachry Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Date Written: November 23, 2020

Abstract

In response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, governments have imposed orders upon or encouraged citizens to decrease physical contact to slow down the spread of the virus. Current literature from the United States infers that only workers from limited socioeconomic groups have the ability to practice remote work. However, there has been little research on mobility disparity across income groups in US cities during the pandemic. The authors tried to fill this gap by quantifying the impacts of the pandemic on human mobility by income group in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas utilizing pseudonymized cell phone location data. A longitudinal study was performed on mobility as measured by the total travel distance, the radius of gyration, and the number of visited locations in April 2020 compared to the data in January and February 2020. An apparent disparity in mobility has been found across income groups. In particular, there was a strong negative correlation (ρ = -0.90) between the estimated income bracket of a traveler and the travel distance in April. Furthermore, larger percentage drops among higher-income brackets in the radius of gyration and number of visited locations implied different adaptability in mobility. The findings of this study suggest a need to understand the reasons behind the mobility inflexibility among low-income populations during the pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, coronavirus, social distancing, mobility, economic disparity, equity, travel behavior

JEL Classification: I00, I1, I12, I14, I18, I32, R12, R40, R49

Suggested Citation

Iio, Kentaro and Guo, Xiaoyu and Kong, Xiaoqiang and Rees, Kelly and Wang, Xiubin, COVID-19 and Social Distancing: Disparities in Mobility Adaptation by Income (November 23, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3735290 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3735290

Kentaro Iio (Contact Author)

Traf-IQ, Inc. ( email )

14811 St. Mary’s Lane
Suite 180
Houston, TX 77079
United States

Xiaoyu Guo

Texas A&M University - Zachry Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering ( email )

3136 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3136
United States

Xiaoqiang Kong

Texas A&M University - Zachry Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering ( email )

3136 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3136
United States

Kelly Rees

None ( email )

Xiubin Wang

Texas A&M University - Zachry Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering ( email )

3136 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3136
United States

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