Digital economic activity and resilience for metros and small businesses during Covid-19

Karen Mossberger, Nicholas F. Martini, Meredith McCullough, Caroline J. Tolbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Covid-19 pandemic had an unequal impact across businesses and communities and rapidly accelerated digital trends in the economy. What role, then, did website use play in community resilience and small business outcomes? This article examines a new source of population data on domain name hosts to provide a unique measure of digital economic activity within communities. Seventy-five percent are commercial, including online-only, brick-and-mortar, small, and microbusinesses. With geolocated data on 20 million US domain name hosts, we investigate how their density (per 100 people) affected economic outcomes in the nation’s largest metros during the pandemic. Using monthly time series data for the 50 largest metropolitan areas, the domain host data is merged with the US Census Small Business Pulse Surveys and Chetty et al.’s Opportunity Insights data. Results indicate metros with higher concentrations of businesses with an online presence experienced more positive economic perceptions and outcomes from April to December 2020. This high-frequency, granular data on digital economic activity suggests that digitally enabled small and microbusinesses played an important role in local economic resilience and demonstrates how commercial data can be used to generate new insights in a fast-changing environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSmall Business Economics
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Commercial data
  • Digital entrepreneurship
  • Domain name hosts
  • Economic resilience
  • Pandemic
  • Websites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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