Data Stewardship in Practice — Identifying Gender Gaps in Urban Mobility

Andrew Young
Jul 1 · 3 min read


Close to 90% of Chile’s population lives in urban areas, with 40% living in Santiago alone. Like many other South American cities, Santiago continues to expand, which puts pressure on vulnerable populations, who must travel greater distances to work, study and live. Although private car ownership is projected to grow in the coming years, women are more likely to be traveling on foot than men — 40% of women travel by foot in Santiago, as opposed to 30% of men.

When traveling, women often take multi-purpose, multi-stop trips to do chores, work and attend school. The needs of women and girls are not typically taken into account when authorities make plans for transportation developments. Difficulties in public transportation use can lead to a fear for personal safety in public spaces, especially when 85% of women reported that they were harassed on the street in Chile between 2014 and 2015.

To decode the intersection of urban mobility and gender, The GovLab, UNICEF, Universidad del Desarrollo, Telefónica R&D Center, ISI Foundation, and DigitalGlobe established a data collaborative seeking insight into three central questions:

  • Does gender play a role in the way people move around the megacity of Santiago, Chile?
  • To what extent is there mobility inequality by gender, and what can be done to incorporate and include gender considerations in transportation planning?
  • Can the analytic model used to study gender and mobility in Chile be used in other places and contexts?

The Gender and Urban Mobility data collaborative, one of ten winners of Data2X’s Big Data for Gender Challenge Awards, combined a wide range of datasets, including Call Detail Records (CDRs) and high-resolution satellite data drawn from the private sector, as well as open government data and crowdsourced data from OpenStreetMap.

Today we are delighted to share “Gender Gaps in Urban Mobility,” a pre-publication paper available at arXiv that captures an array of findings from the yearlong collaborative study. The paper was co-authored by Laetitia Gauvin, Michele Tizzoni, Simone Piaggesi, Andrew Young, Natalia Adler, Stefaan Verhulst, Leo Ferres, and Ciro Cattuto.

These collaborative’s findings, as well as the methodology that surfaced them, can play an important role in furthering more gender inclusive and equitable decision-making in Santiago and beyond, particularly as it relates to urban planning, transportation, and mobility.

Paper Abstract:

The use of public transportation or simply moving about in streets are gendered issues. Women and girls often engage in multi-purpose, multi-stop trips in order to do household chores, work, and study (‘trip chaining’). Women-headed households are often more prominent in urban settings and they tend to work more in low-paid/informal jobs than men, with limited access to transportation subsidies. Here we present recent results on urban mobility from a gendered perspective by uniquely combining a wide range of datasets, including commercial sources of telecom and open data. We explored urban mobility of women and men in the greater metropolitan area of Santiago, Chile, by analyzing the mobility traces extracted from the Call Detail Records (CDRs) of a large cohort of anonymized mobile phone users over a period of 3 months. We find that, taking into account the differences in users’ calling behaviors, women move less than men, visiting less unique locations and distributing their time less equally among such locations. By mapping gender differences in mobility over the 52 comunas of Santiago, we find a higher mobility gap to be correlated with socio-economic indicators, such as a lower average income, and with the lack of public and private transportation options. Such results provide new insights for policymakers to design more gender inclusive transportation plans in the city of Santiago.

Data Stewards Network

Responsible Data Leadership to Address the Challenges of the 21st Century

Andrew Young

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Data Stewards Network

Responsible Data Leadership to Address the Challenges of the 21st Century