Socioeconomic Reorganization of Communication and Mobility Networks in Response to External Shocks

December 11, 2023

Ludovico Napoli, Ph.D. candidate, and Dr. Márton Karsai, associate professor at CEU’s Department of Network and Data Science, have recently published a paper on “Socioeconomic reorganization of communication and mobility networks in response to external shocks” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). This collaborative effort with UNICEF and the IT University of Copenhagen sheds light on the profound changes in network segregation patterns during the initial wave of COVID-19 in Sierra Leone. 

The study leverages large-scale mobile phone communication data to simultaneously explore the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on mobility and social communication networks. Surprisingly, while mobility networks became more segregated during lockdown due to travel restrictions, social communication networks became less segregated, connecting individuals across diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. These opposite and counterintuitive trends in mobility and social behaviors suggest that with physical contact restricted, people compensated by communicating more with peers from different socioeconomic classes. 

Notably, the research reveals varying impacts across socioeconomic groups, indicating that the lockdown effects were not uniform. While everyone experienced increased mobility segregation, the rise was significantly more pronounced and enduring for poorer socioeconomic classes. In social communication networks, a contrasting trend emerged, with decreased segregation for poorer individuals and increased segregation for wealthier. 

The authors emphasize the necessity of examining multiple behavioral dimensions simultaneously during crises to comprehensively uncover the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions. Their findings underscore the importance of shaping equitable policies to address the unequal burden of interventions on economically disadvantaged populations. 

Reference:

Ludovico Napoli, Vedran Sekara, Manuel García-Herranz and Márton Karsai

Socioeconomic reorganization of communication and mobility networks in response to external shocks

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 120 (50) e2305285120 (2023)

doi:10.1073/pnas.2305285120

URL: Socioeconomic reorganization of communication and mobility networks in response to external shocks | PNAS

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