The (Structural) Gravity of Epidemics

The (Structural) Gravity of Epidemics

By Robert Zymek and Alejandro Cuñat


Epidemiological models assume gravity-like interactions of individuals across space without microfoundations. We combine a simple epidemiological framework with a dynamic model of individual location choice. The model predicts that flows of people across space obey a structural gravity equation. By means of an application to data from Great Britain we show that our structural-gravity framework: provides a rationale for quarantines; offers a clear mapping from observed geography to the spread of a disease; and makes it possible to evaluate the welfare impact of (expected and unexpected) mobility restrictions in the face of a deadly epidemic.

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