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

Iio, Kentaro, Xiaoyu Guo, Kelly Rees, and Xiubin Bruce Wang. 'COVID-19 and Social Distancing: Disparities in Mobility Adaptation between Income Groups.' Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2021): 100333. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trip.2021.100333

13 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2020 Last revised: 15 Mar 2021

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

Independent

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 encouraged and ordered citizens to practice social distancing, particularly by working and studying at home. Intuitively, only a subset of people have the ability to practice remote work. However, there has been little research on the disparity of mobility adaptation across different income groups in US cities during the pandemic. The authors worked to fill this gap by quantifying the impacts of the pandemic on human mobility by income in Greater Houston, Texas. We determined human mobility using pseudonymized, spatially disaggregated cell phone location data. A longitudinal study across estimated income groups was conducted by measuring the total travel distance, radius of gyration, number of visited locations, and per-trip distance in April 2020 compared to the data in a baseline. An apparent disparity in mobility was found across estimated income groups. In particular, there was a strong negative correlation (ρ = -0.90) between a traveler’s estimated income and travel distance in April. Disparities in mobility adaptability were further shown since those in higher income brackets experienced larger percentage drops in the radius of gyration and the number of distinct visited locations than did those in lower income brackets. The findings of this study suggest a need to understand the reasons behind the mobility inflexibility among low-income populations during the pandemic. The study illuminates an equity issue which may be of interest to policy makers and researchers alike in the wake of an epidemic.

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 between Income Groups (November 23, 2020). Iio, Kentaro, Xiaoyu Guo, Kelly Rees, and Xiubin Bruce Wang. 'COVID-19 and Social Distancing: Disparities in Mobility Adaptation between Income Groups.' Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2021): 100333. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trip.2021.100333, 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

Independent ( 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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