Development Lunch Seminar - Elisa Maffioli, University of Michigan


Location: 3060F Jenkins Nanovic Halls

Interested parties are welcome to attend.

Title: "Is the Phone Mightier than the Virus? Cell Phone Access and Epidemic Containment Efforts"



This paper examines the impact of mobile phone access on the containment of an

epidemic. We study this question in the context of the 2014 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

outbreak in Liberia. Combining novel data on cellphone towers and EVD cases, we

estimate a high-resolution radio-wave propagation model that uses variations in terrain

topography and the spatial distribution of cellphone towers to predict signal strength on

the ground. We then employ a regression discontinuity design that compares villages at

the margin of the signal strength threshold required for coverage. We find that having

access to cellphone coverage leads to a 10.8 percentage point reduction in the likelihood

that a village has an EVD case. Results from a novel survey collected following the

epidemic suggest that this is mostly explained by cellphone access facilitating treatment


(with Robert Gonzalez)



Please contact Alejandro Estefan for information.