Twitter social mobility data reveal demographic variations in social distancing practices during the COVID-19 pandemic

January 12, 2024

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The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of social distancing practices to stem the spread of the virus. However, compliance with public health guidelines was mixed. Understanding what factors are associated with differences in compliance can improve public health messaging since messages could be targeted and tailored to different population segments. We utilize Twitter data on social mobility during COVID-19 to reveal which populations practiced social distancing and what factors correlated with this practice. We analyze correlations between demographic and political affiliation with reductions in physical mobility measured by public geolocation tweets. We find significant differences in mobility reduction between these groups in the United States. We observe that males, Asian and Latinx individuals, older individuals, Democrats, and people from higher population density states exhibited larger reductions in movement. Furthermore, our study also unveils meaningful insights into the interactions between different groups. We hope these findings will provide evidence to support public health policy-making.

Read the entire study in Nature.