The Immediate Effect of COVID-19 Policies on Social Distancing Behavior in the United States

26 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2020 Last revised: 27 Apr 2020

See all articles by Rahi Abouk

Rahi Abouk

William Paterson University

Babak Heydari

Northeastern University

Date Written: April 8, 2020

Abstract

Anecdotal evidences point to effectiveness of COVID-19 social distancing policies, however, their effectiveness vis-a-vis what is driven by public awareness and voluntary actions have not been studied. Policy variations across US states create a natural experiment to study the causal impact of each policy. Using a difference-in-differences methodology, location-based mobility, and daily state-level data on COVID-19 tests and confirmed cases, we rank policies based on their effectiveness. We show that statewide stay-at-home orders had the strongest causal impact on reducing social interactions. In contrast, most of the expected impact of more lenient policies were already reaped from nonpolicy mechanisms. Moreover, stay-at-home policy results in a steady decline in confirmed cases, starting from ten days after implementation and reaching a 37% decrease after fifteen days, consistent with the testing practices and incubation period of the disease.

Keywords: COVID-19, Social Distancing, State Policies

JEL Classification: I18, I14

Suggested Citation

Abouk, Rahi and Heydari, Babak, The Immediate Effect of COVID-19 Policies on Social Distancing Behavior in the United States (April 8, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3571421 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3571421

Rahi Abouk (Contact Author)

William Paterson University ( email )

Babak Heydari

Northeastern University ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States
5104398346 (Phone)
02215 (Fax)

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