How Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect the Future of Urban Life? : Early Evidence from Highly-Educated Respondents in the United States
Attitudes and habits are extremely resistant to change, but a disruption of the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to bring long-term, massive societal changes. During the pandemic, people are being compelled to experience new ways of interacting, working, learning, shopping, traveling, and eating meals. Going forward, a critical question is whether these experiences will result in changed behaviors and preferences in the long term. This paper presents initial findings on the likelihood of long-term changes in telework, daily travel, restaurant patronage, and air travel based on survey data collected from adults in the United States in Spring 2020. These data suggest that a sizable fraction of the increase in telework and decreases in both business air travel and restaurant patronage are likely here to stay. As for daily travel modes, public transit may not fully recover its pre-pandemic ridership levels, but many of our respondents are planning to bike and walk more than they used to. These data reflect the responses of a sample that is higher income and more highly educated than the US population. The response of these particular groups to the COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps especially important to understand, however, because their consumption patterns give them a large influence on many sectors of the economy.