HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University
Emma Bloomberg Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management


We examine differences in mobility outcomes between residents of highest and lowest socio-economic index (SEI) at the Census block group (CBG) level in nine major US cities prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. While low-SEI groups generally traveled shorter distances but visited more city-wide CBGs before the pandemic, high-SEI residents universally reduced their mobility to a greater extent during the pandemic. Although high-SEI residents were making more trips to parks and health-care providers, and fewer subsistence trips to retail stores already before the pandemic, COVID-19 significantly widened these differences thereby exacerbating “mobility gaps” between low-SEI and high-SEI groups. We further examine how such “mobility gaps” can be mitigated by spatial advantages of home locations, controlling for political inclination. We find that living in better transit-served or more walkable neighborhoods generally benefited high-SEI residents more than low-SEI residents, with some variation across cities. This suggests that built environments not only impact mobility outcomes during “normal” times, but also influence how different socio-economic groups are able to adapt during times of crisis.


Sevtsuk, Andres, Rounaq Basu, Dylan Halpern, Anne Hudson, Kloe Ng, and Jorrit de Jong. "A tale of two Americas: Socio-economic mobility gaps within and across American cities before and during the pandemic." Cities 131 (December 2022): 104006.