Rural residents don’t have the luxury of staying home as much as North Carolina’s urban residents, a study compiled from smartphone data shows.

The trend holds through nationwide, according to the study from SafeGraph, which analyzed data from 45 million smartphones. 

The study used location data to determine the most common overnight location of “anonymous devices,” to gauge how often people were going out. 

Major metros like Charlotte and Raleigh show the highest percent of homebodies, with 43 and 45 percent of residents not leaving the house. But rural pockets like Duplin, Bladen and Robeson counties had less than 30 percent of residents staying home. 

Unlike previous studies, which ranked communities by distance traveled, this study did not differentiate between walking over to a neighbors house a few blocks away or driving 10 miles. 

“We think this is a useful metric because one does not need to travel long distances to undermine social-distancing and enable viral transmission,” SafeGraph states in its methodology. “It also enables better comparisons between rural, suburban, and urban areas, even though the former generally travel greater distances for essential activities like grocery shopping.”

There’s a whole host of reasons why sheltering in place is less of an option for folks in rural communities—the population has lower incomes and higher rates of poverty, meaning families are less able to stock up up on food and must make more frequent trips for supplies. Public Health officials have also predicted the pandemic could hit rural regions harder than metros because hospitals there are less equipped to handle surges. And folks in this communities already have a lower life expectancy than their urban counterparts. 

Check out the full data set here. 

Contact Raleigh editor Leigh Tauss at

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