Stay-at-Home Orders and COVID-19 Fatalities

37 Pages Posted: 22 May 2020

See all articles by Clayton Masterman

Clayton Masterman

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

Date Written: May 14, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted most state governments to order residents to stay at home. The goal of such orders is to mitigate infection rates to prevent health care system overload, thereby dramatically reducing the death toll of the pandemic. This article investigates the effectiveness of stay-at-home orders in decreasing COVID-19 infections and fatalities. Using a differences-in-differences approach, I estimate that stay-at-home orders between mid-March and May 9 prevented 1.7 million COVID-19 cases and 55,000 deaths in the United States. Orders that state governments issued were more effective than local government orders, suggesting that consistent policy approaches across geographic areas is key. The effects were concentrated in urban and higher wage counties. Based on the day of the week that infections are prevented, I also find some evidence that the cases stay-at-home orders prevent are largely those that would have occurred at work rather than from recreation.

Note: Funding: None.

Conflict of Interest: None.

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, coronavirus, stay at home, shelter in place, health policy, law and economics

JEL Classification: I14, I18, K32

Suggested Citation

Masterman, Clayton, Stay-at-Home Orders and COVID-19 Fatalities (May 14, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Clayton Masterman (Contact Author)

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit ( email )

United States

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