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Social connections with Covid-19-affected areas increase compliance with mobility restrictions

We study the role of social connections in households’ responses to mobility restrictions imposed amid the Covid-19 epidemic, using aggregated and anonymized Facebook data on social connections and mobile phone data for tracking movement. Measured at the US county level, a one-standard-deviation increase in social connections with China and Italy - the first countries with major outbreaks of the virus - roughly doubles the effectiveness of mobility restrictions. The effect of social connections on compliance is stronger for Republican counties but exists regardless of political orientation. It is also stronger for counties with older and less educated populations. Groups at higher risk from Covid-19 comply with restrictions better and are less affected by social connections. Our findings are consistent with social networks contributing to households’ information acquisition about the pandemic.

Lead investigator:

Ben Charoenwong


National University of Singapore

Primary topic:

Inequality & poverty

Secondary topic:

Families & households

Region of data collection:

North America

Country of data collection


Status of data collection


Type of data being collected:

From private company

Unit of real-time data collection




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