New working paper: Understanding Socioeconomic Disparities in Travel Behavior during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Authors: Rebecca Brough (Notre Dame), Matthew Freedman (UC-Irvine), David Phillips (Notre Dame)
Abstract: We document the magnitudes of and mechanisms behind socioeconomic differences in travel behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic. We focus on King County, Washington, one of the first places in the U.S. where Covid-19 was detected. We leverage novel and rich administrative and survey data on travel volumes, modes, and preferences for different demographic groups. Large average declines in travel, and in public transit use in particular, due to the pandemic and related policy responses mask substantial heterogeneity across socioeconomic groups. Travel intensity declined considerably less among less-educated and lower-income individuals, even after accounting for mode substitution and variation across neighborhoods in the impacts of public transit service reductions. The relative inability of less-educated and lower-income individuals to cease commuting explains at least half of the difference in travel responses across groups.
In addition to the main point of the paper, it may be of interest to users of SafeGraph data that we have a direct measure of individual income linked to travel behavior in transit data. So, we can compare socioeconomic gaps by neighborhood in the SafeGraph data vs. socioeconomic gaps by neighborhood in the transit data vs. socioeconomic gaps by person in the transit data. They all look pretty similar, which is encouraging for making conclusions about income disparities just using neighborhood information.