Creatures of the State? Metropolitan Counties Compensated for State Inaction in Initial U.S. Response to Covid-19 Pandemic

38 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2020 Last revised: 26 Aug 2020

See all articles by Christof Brandtner

Christof Brandtner

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation; University of Chicago - Department of Sociology; EM Lyon (Ecole de Management de Lyon)

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

Andrew Stier

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology

Marc G. Berman

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology

Date Written: August 10, 2020

Abstract

Societal responses to crises require coordination at multiple levels of organization. Exploring early efforts to contain COVID-19 in the U.S., we argue that local governments can act to ensure systemic resilience and recovery when higher-level governments fail to do so. Event history analyses show that large, more urban areas experience COVID-19 more intensely due to high population density and denser socioeconomic networks. But metropolitan counties were also among the first to adopt shelter-in-place orders. Analyzing the statistical predictors of when counties moved before their states, we find that the hierarchy of counties by size and economic integration matters for the timing of orders, where both factors predict earlier shelter-in-place orders. In line with sociological theories of urban governance, we also find evidence of an important governance dimension to the timing of orders. Liberal counties in conservative states were more than twice as likely to adopt a policy and implement one earlier in the pandemic, suggesting that tensions about how to resolve collective governance problems are important in the socio-temporal dynamic of responses to COVID-19. We explain this behavior as a substitution effect in which more urban local governments, driven by risk and necessity, step up into the action vacuum left by higher levels of government and become national policy leaders and innovators.

Keywords: spatiotemporal dynamics of COVID-19, government response, policy and administration, cities and counties, local government, urban governance, urban science, USA

Suggested Citation

Brandtner, Christof and Bettencourt, Luis and Stier, Andrew and Berman, Marc G., Creatures of the State? Metropolitan Counties Compensated for State Inaction in Initial U.S. Response to Covid-19 Pandemic (August 10, 2020). Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation Research Paper No. 21, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3670927 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3670927

Christof Brandtner (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation ( email )

5735 S Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

University of Chicago - Department of Sociology ( email )

23 Avenue Guy de Collongue
Écully
France

EM Lyon (Ecole de Management de Lyon) ( email )

23 Ave Guy de Collongue
Ecully, 69134
France

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation ( email )

5735 S Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Andrew Stier

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology ( email )

5848 S. University Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Marc G. Berman

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology ( email )

United States

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