Private Precaution and Public Restrictions: What Drives Social Distancing and Industry Foot Traffic in the Covid-19 Era?

40 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2020 Last revised: 30 Jul 2020

See all articles by Christopher Cronin

Christopher Cronin

University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics

William N. Evans

University of Notre Dame; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 2020

Abstract

We examine the role of state and local policies to encourage social distancing, including stay at home orders, public school closures, and restrictions on restaurants, entertainment, and large social gatherings. Outcomes come from cell phone records and include foot traffic in six industries (essential and nonessential retail, entertainment, hotel, restaurant, and business services) plus the fraction of cell phones that are home all day. Structural break models show mobility series at the national and state levels start to change dramatically in a short window from March 8-14, well before state or local restrictions of note are in place. In difference-in-difference models, declarations of state of emergency reduce foot traffic and increase social distancing. Stay at home restrictions explain a modest fraction of the change in behavior across outcomes. Industry-specific restrictions have large impacts. For example, restrictions on dining in restaurants reduce traffic in restaurants, hotels, and nonessential retail. Private, self-regulating behavior explains more than three-quarters of the decline in foot traffic in most industries. Restrictive regulation explains half the decline in foot traffic in essential retail and 75 percent of the increase in the fraction home all day. In this latter result, public school closings have a substantial effect.

Suggested Citation

Cronin, Christopher and Evans, William N., Private Precaution and Public Restrictions: What Drives Social Distancing and Industry Foot Traffic in the Covid-19 Era? (July 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27531, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3649895

Christopher Cronin (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics ( email )

Notre Dame, IN 46556-5646
United States

William N. Evans

University of Notre Dame ( email )

913 Flanner Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46530
United States
574-631-7039 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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