Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.Sc.)




Joanna Schug

Committee Member

Adrian Bravo

Committee Member

Lee Kirkpatrick


In this paper, we examine whether relational mobility and historical pathogen prevalence on a country level relates to an individual’s willingness or ability to restrict movement in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, both together an individually. We use data on geographic mobility compiled from geolocation data on mobile phones to examine aggregate changes in geographic mobility at the country-level at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with a pre-pandemic baseline. We find that countries high in relational mobility showed a greater decrease in geographic mobility than countries low in relational mobility following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders. We also find that low pathogen prevalence at the country level was associated with increased case growth as well as decreased geographic mobility in response to the onset of the pandemic. These effects can be shown to work in tandem, with nations both high in relational mobility and low in pathogen prevalence being particularly able to reduce geographic mobility in response to pandemic conditions. These results suggest that increased flexibility in social relationships in high relational mobility nations may have enabled individuals to decrease geographic mobility in response to worsening pandemic conditions. This relational flexibility may be particularly important in environments low in pathogen prevalence when responding to pandemic viruses.


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Available for download on Sunday, August 27, 2023