JUE Insight: College Student Travel Contributed to Local COVID-19 Spread

35 Pages Posted: 21 May 2020 Last revised: 5 Dec 2020

See all articles by Daniel Mangrum

Daniel Mangrum

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Paul Niekamp

Ball State University - Department of Economics

Date Written: November 17, 2020

Abstract

Due to the suspension of in-person classes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, students at universities with earlier spring breaks traveled and returned to campus while those with later spring breaks largely did not. We use variation in academic calendars to study how travel affected the evolution of COVID-19 cases and mortality. Estimates imply that counties with more early spring break students had a higher growth rate of cases than counties with fewer early spring break students. The increase in case growth rates peaked two weeks after spring break. Effects are larger for universities with students more likely to travel through airports, to New York City, and to popular Florida destinations. Consistent with secondary spread to more vulnerable populations, we find a delayed increase in mortality growth rates. Lastly, we present evidence that viral infection transmission due to college student travel also occurred prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19, higher education, externalities, mobility

JEL Classification: H40, I10, I23, R40

Suggested Citation

Mangrum, Daniel and Niekamp, Paul, JUE Insight: College Student Travel Contributed to Local COVID-19 Spread (November 17, 2020). Journal of Urban Economics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3606811 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3606811

Daniel Mangrum (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of New York ( email )

33 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10045
United States

Paul Niekamp

Ball State University - Department of Economics ( email )

Muncie, IN 47306-0340
United States

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