Urban Mobility and the Experienced Isolation of Students and Adults
38 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2022 Last revised: 22 Jan 2022
Date Written: January 2022
Do urban children live more segregated lives than urban adults? Using cellphone location data and following the ‘experienced isolation’ methodology of Athey et al. (2021), we compare the isolation of students over the age of 16—who we identify based on their time spent at a high school—and adults. We find that students in cities experience significantly less integration in their day-to-day lives than adults. The average student experiences 27% more isolation outside of the home than the average adult. Even when comparing students and adults living in the same neighborhood, exposure to devices associated with a different race is 20% lower for students. Looking at more broad measures of urban mobility, we find that students spend more time at home, more time closer to home when they do leave the house, and less time at school than adults spend at work. Finally, we find correlational evidence that neighborhoods with more geographic mobility today also had more intergenerational income mobility in the past. We hope future work will more rigorously test the hypothesis that different geographic mobility patterns for children and adults can explain why urban density appears to boost adult wages but reduce intergenerational income mobility.
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