Black Lives Matter Protests, Social Distancing, and COVID-19

60 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2020 Last revised: 13 Jul 2020

See all articles by Dhaval Dave

Dhaval Dave

Bentley University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) - NY Office

Andrew Friedson

University of Colorado at Denver - Department of Economics

Kyutaro Matsuzawa

San Diego State University

Joseph Sabia

San Diego State University - Department of Economics

Samuel Safford

San Diego State University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2020

Abstract

Sparked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody, the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests have brought a new wave of attention to the issue of inequality within criminal justice. However, many public health officials have warned that mass protests could lead to a reduction in social distancing behavior, spurring a resurgence of COVID-19. This study uses newly collected data on protests in 315 of the largest U.S. cities to estimate the impacts of mass protests on social distancing and COVID-19 case growth. Event-study analyses provide strong evidence that net stay-at-home behavior increased following protest onset, consistent with the hypothesis that non-protesters’ behavior was substantially affected by urban protests. This effect was not fully explained by the imposition of city curfews. Estimated effects were generally larger for persistent protests and those accompanied by media reports of violence. Furthermore, we find no evidence that urban protests reignited COVID-19 case growth during the more than three weeks following protest onset. We conclude that predictions of broad negative public health consequences of Black Lives Matter protests were far too narrowly conceived.

Suggested Citation

Dave, Dhaval and Friedson, Andrew and Matsuzawa, Kyutaro and Sabia, Joseph and Safford, Samuel, Black Lives Matter Protests, Social Distancing, and COVID-19 (June 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27408, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3632635

Dhaval Dave (Contact Author)

Bentley University - Department of Economics ( email )

175 Forest Street
Waltham, MA 02452-4705
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) - NY Office

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New York, NY 10016-4309
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Andrew Friedson

University of Colorado at Denver - Department of Economics ( email )

Campus Box 181
P.O. Box 173364
Denver, CO 80217-3364
United States

Kyutaro Matsuzawa

San Diego State University ( email )

San Diego, CA 92182-0763
United States

Joseph Sabia

San Diego State University - Department of Economics ( email )

5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182
United States

Samuel Safford

San Diego State University

San Diego, CA 92182-0763
United States

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