Vilfredo Pareto Research Seminar
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High-Frequency Human Mobility in Three African Countries

Martina Kirchberger, Trinity College Dublin.
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Geneva Graduate Institute, Maison de la paix, Room S5

As part of the Vilfredo Pareto Research Seminar series, the International Economics Department at the Geneva Graduate Institute is pleased to invite you to a public talk given by Martina Kirchberger from Trinity College Dublin.

This seminar is held jointly with the Geneva Trade and Development Workshop (GTDW).


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High-Frequency Human Mobility in Three African Countries, joint with Paul Blanchard and Douglas Gollin

Abstract: This paper explores the within-country movements of people in three African countries. Although previous studies in other low-income settings have examined patterns of seasonal migration and daily commuting, much less is known about mobility at other temporal frequencies. This paper draws on a novel source of data from smartphone locations. These data allow us to observe the movements of a large set of individuals over a one-year period. We can characterize with considerable detail the locations that people visit and the frequency with which  they make trips. The average  smartphone user in our data ventures more than 10 km from home on 12-15% of the days when they are observed. On average, when we observe them  away from home, our users are typically 35-50 km from home. We can characterize many of the specific locations that people visit when they are away from home. These include locations associated with shops and markets, government offices, and places offering a range of goods, services, and recreational venues. Big cities seem to be particularly important destinations, perhaps reflecting the  range of amenities that they offer to visitors. We develop a conceptual framework that characterizes the role of visits for individuals  and provides a number of testable predictions that are consistent with the movement patterns that we observe in the data. Although our sample of smartphone users is not representative of national populations, their mobility patterns offer useful insights into spatial frictions and the geographic patterns of economic activity.

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This seminar is held jointly with the Geneva Trade and Development Workshop (GTDW).


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