Determinants of Social Distancing and Economic Activity During COVID-19: A Global View

23 Pages Posted: 14 May 2020

See all articles by William F. Maloney

William F. Maloney

World Bank - Poverty and Economic Management Unit; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Temel Taskin

World Bank

Date Written: May 12, 2020

Abstract

The paper uses Google mobility data to identify the determinants of social distancing during the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. The findings for the United States indicate that much of the decrease in mobility is voluntary, driven by the number of COVID-19 cases and proxying for greater awareness of risk. Non-pharmaceutical interventions such as closing nonessential businesses, sheltering in place, and school closings are also effective, although with a total contribution dwarfed by the voluntary actions. This suggests that much social distancing will happen regardless of the presence of non-pharmaceutical interventions and that restrictions may often function more like a coordinating device among increasingly predisposed individuals than repressive measures per se. These results are consistent across country income groups, with only the poorest countries showing limited effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions and no voluntary component, consistent with resistance to abandon sources of livelihood. The paper also confirms the direct impact of the voluntary component on economic activity, by showing that the majority of the fall in restaurant reservations in the United States and movie spending in Sweden occurred before the imposition of any non-pharmaceutical interventions. Widespread voluntary de-mobilization implies that releasing constraints may not yield a V-shaped recovery if the reduction in COVID risk is not credible.

Keywords: Public Health Promotion, Transport Services, Urban Transport, Transport in Urban Areas, Telecommunications Infrastructure, Health Care Services Industry

Suggested Citation

Maloney, William F. and Taskin, Temel, Determinants of Social Distancing and Economic Activity During COVID-19: A Global View (May 12, 2020). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 9242, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3599572

William F. Maloney (Contact Author)

World Bank - Poverty and Economic Management Unit ( email )

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

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Temel Taskin

World Bank ( email )

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Washington, DC 20433
United States

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