The Effects of Large Group Meetings on the Spread of COVID-19: The Case of Trump Rallies

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See all articles by B. Douglas Bernheim

B. Douglas Bernheim

Stanford University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Nina Buchmann

Stanford University, Department of Economics

Zach Freitas-Groff

Stanford University, Department of Economics, Students

Sebastián Otero

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 30, 2020

Abstract

We investigate the effects of large group meetings on the spread of COVID-19 by studying the impact of eighteen Trump campaign rallies. To capture the effects of subsequent contagion within the pertinent communities, our analysis encompasses up to ten post-rally weeks for each event. Our method is based on a collection of regression models, one for each event, that capture the relationships between post-event outcomes and pre-event characteristics, including demographics and the trajectory of COVID-19 cases, in similar counties. We explore a total of 24 procedures for identifying sets of matched counties. For the vast majority of these variants, our estimate of the average treatment effect across the eighteen events implies that they increased subsequent confirmed cases of COVID-19 by more than 250 per 100,000 residents. Extrapolating this figure to the entire sample, we conclude that these eighteen rallies ultimately resulted in more than 30,000 incremental confirmed cases of COVID-19. Applying county-specific post-event death rates, we conclude that the rallies likely led to more than 700 deaths (not necessarily among attendees).

Note: Funding: This project did not make use of external funding. Expenses were covered by Professor Bernheim's unrestricted research account, provided by Stanford University.

Declaration of Interests: The authors have no relevant or material financial interests that relate to the research described in this paper.

Keywords: COVID-19, group meetings

JEL Classification: I11

Suggested Citation

Bernheim, B. Douglas and buchmann, Nina and Freitas-Groff, Zach and Otero, Sebastián, The Effects of Large Group Meetings on the Spread of COVID-19: The Case of Trump Rallies (October 30, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3722299

B. Douglas Bernheim (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
650-725-8732 (Phone)
650-725-5702 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Nina Buchmann

Stanford University, Department of Economics ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Zach Freitas-Groff

Stanford University, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Sebastián Otero

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
STANFORD, CA 94305-6072
United States

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