Google Research

Mapping global variation in human mobility

  • Moritz U. G. Kraemer
  • Adam Sadilek
  • Qian Zhang
  • Nahema A. Marchal
  • Gaurav Tuli
  • Emily L. Cohn
  • Yulin Hswen
  • Alex Perkins
  • David L. Smith
  • Robert C. Reiner Jr
  • John S. Brownstein
Nature Human Behavior (2020)

Abstract

The geographic variation of human movement is largely unknown, mainly due to a lack of accurate and scalable data. Here we describe global human mobility patterns, aggregated from over 300 million smartphone users. The data cover nearly all countries and 65% of Earth’s populated surface, including cross-border movements and international migration. This scale and coverage enable us to develop a globally comprehensive human movement typology. We quantify how human movement patterns vary across sociodemographic and environmental contexts and present international movement patterns across national borders. Fitting statistical models, we validate our data and find that human movement laws apply at 10 times shorter distances and movement declines 40% more rapidly in low-income settings. These results and data are made available to further understanding of the role of human movement in response to rapid demographic, economic and environmental changes.

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