What Explains Temporal and Geographic Variation in the Early US Coronavirus Pandemic?

54 Pages Posted: 27 May 2020 Last revised: 29 Jan 2021

See all articles by Hunt Allcott

Hunt Allcott

Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research New England

Levi Boxell

Stanford University

Jacob Conway

Stanford University

Billy Ferguson

Stanford University

Matthew Gentzkow

Stanford University

Benny Goldman

Harvard University

Date Written: January 27, 2021

Abstract

We provide new evidence on the drivers of the early US coronavirus pandemic. We combine an epidemiological model of disease transmission with quasi-random variation arising from the timing of stay-at-home-orders to estimate the causal roles of policy interventions and voluntary social distancing. We then relate the residual variation in disease transmission rates to observable features of cities. We estimate significant impacts of policy and social distancing responses, but we show that the magnitude of policy effects is modest, and most social distancing is driven by voluntary responses. Moreover, we show that neither policy nor rates of voluntary social distancing explain a meaningful share of geographic variation. The most important predictors of which cities were hardest hit by the pandemic are exogenous characteristics such as population and density.

Keywords: Coronavirus, Public policy, Health behaviors, Disease transmission

JEL Classification: H12, H75, I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Allcott, Hunt and Boxell, Levi and Conway, Jacob and Ferguson, Billy and Gentzkow, Matthew and Goldman, Benjamin, What Explains Temporal and Geographic Variation in the Early US Coronavirus Pandemic? (January 27, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3610422 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3610422

Hunt Allcott

Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research New England ( email )

One Memorial Drive, 14th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Levi Boxell

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Jacob Conway (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Billy Ferguson

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Matthew Gentzkow

Stanford University ( email )

Benjamin Goldman

Harvard University ( email )

Byerly Hall
8 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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