Graduate Student Forum

Where the Grass Is Greener: Social Infrastructure and Resilience to COVID-19

Tuesday, 07 June 2022 | 9:00 - 9:45 (JST)
Zoom Meeting
  • Timothy Fraser Department of Political Science, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
  • Kenneth Mori McElwain Professor, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo

Recent studies have linked the strength and type of social ties in communities to abating the spread of COVID-19. However, less attention has gone to social infrastructure, the places in neighborhoods that foster social connectedness. This study highlights the role of social infrastructure in COVID-19 outcomes in Fukuoka, a major city in Southwestern Japan, drawing on mapping, modeling, and statistical simulations. I find that city blocks in Fukuoka with more social infrastructure see lower rates of COVID spread, even after controlling for social capital, vulnerability, and health care capacity. However, some kinds of social infrastructure are more beneficial than others; parks, libraries, and public educational sites are linked to lower rates of infection, where social distancing is easier, while public meeting spaces and community centers see rising infections, likely facilitating transmission through gatherings. Taking stock of social infrastructure in our neighborhoods could improve our communities’ resilience to the next variant.


Timothy (Tim) Fraser is mixed methods political scientist, studying the role of social networks in communities’ adaptation to climate change and crisis. He recently successfully defended his dissertation as a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Northeastern University in Boston, advised by Dr. Daniel Aldrich. He has authored 30 peer-reviewed studies on urban resilience, energy policy, and disasters in Japan and the US, in journals including Global Environmental Change, Nature Scientific Reports, and PNAS Nexus. His research uses network statistics, GIS, and fieldwork, and has been funded by internal and external grants, including Fulbright.