Rationing Social Contact During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Transmission Risk and Social Benefits of US Locations

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2020. (doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2008025117)

25 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2020 Last revised: 22 Aug 2021

See all articles by Seth Benzell

Seth Benzell

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics; MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy; Stanford University, Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence Digital Economy Lab

Avinash Collis

University of Texas at Austin - Red McCombs School of Business

Christos Nicolaides

School of Economics and Management, University of Cyprus; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: April 18, 2020

Abstract

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, some types of stores and gathering places have been shut down while others remain open. The decision to shut down one type of location and leave another open constitutes a judgement about the relative danger and benefits of those locations. Using location data from a large sample of smartphones, nationally representative consumer preference surveys, and government statistics, we measure the relative transmission risk benefit and social cost of closing about thirty different location categories in the US. Our categories include types of shops, entertainments, and public spaces. Our main analysis ranks twenty-six categories by those which should face stricter regulation via dominance across eight dimensions of risk and importance and through composite indexes. We find that from February to March, there were larger declines in visits to locations that our measures imply should be closed first. We hope this analysis will help policymakers decide how to reopen their economies.

Suggested Citation

Benzell, Seth and Collis, Avinash and Nicolaides, Christos, Rationing Social Contact During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Transmission Risk and Social Benefits of US Locations (April 18, 2020). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2020. (doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2008025117), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3579678 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3579678

Seth Benzell

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics ( email )

333 N. Glassell
Orange, CA 92866
United States

MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy ( email )

245 First Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Stanford University, Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence Digital Economy Lab ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Avinash Collis (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Red McCombs School of Business ( email )

Austin, TX
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.avinash.info

Christos Nicolaides

School of Economics and Management, University of Cyprus

1 Panepistimiou
Aglantzia CY-2109, 2109
Cyprus

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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