Measuring Commuting and Economic Activity Inside Cities with Cell Phone Records
46 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2021 Last revised: 2 Dec 2021
Date Written: February 2021
We show how to use commuting flows to infer the spatial distribution of income within a city. A simple workplace choice model predicts a gravity equation for commuting flows whose destination fixed effects correspond to wages. We implement this method with cell phone transaction data from Dhaka and Colombo. Model-predicted income predicts separate income data, at the workplace and residential level, and by skill group. Unlike machine learning approaches, our method does not require training data, yet achieves comparable predictive power. We show that hartals (transportation strikes) in Dhaka reduce commuting more for high model-predicted wage and high-skill commuters.
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