Mobility and Policy Responses during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020
39 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 26, 2021
This paper quantitatively explores determinants of governments' non-pharmaceutical policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our focus is on the extent to which geographic mobility affected the stringency of governmental policy responses. Using daily data since the beginning of 2020, we find that societies that are more geographically mobile have governmental policy responses that are less stringent. We pursue an instrumental variable strategy that exploits climate data to identify arguably exogenous variation in geographic mobility levels, which lends a causal interpretation to our results. One explanation for the sub-optimal result is that it may be more costly (economically and politically) for governments to impose stringent policies on more mobile societies. By examining disaggregated mobility data, we show that the negative relation between geographic mobility and policy stringency is the strongest for commercially-oriented movements. The relation is weaker for geographic movements that relate to civil society. This suggests that policy-makers are more willing to trade-off public health for economic concerns relative to other civil concerns.
Keywords: COVID-19, Geographic mobility, Policy responses
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