What Explains Temporal and Geographic Variation in the Early Us Coronavirus Pandemic?

56 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2020 Last revised: 20 Oct 2020

See all articles by Hunt Allcott

Hunt Allcott

New York University (NYU)

Levi Boxell

Stanford University

Jacob Conway

Stanford University

Billy Ferguson

Stanford University

Matthew Gentzkow

Stanford University

Benny Goldman

Harvard University

Date Written: October 2020

Abstract

We provide new evidence on the drivers of the early US coronavirus pandemic. We combine an epidemiological model of disease transmission with quasi-random variation arising from the timing of stay-at-home-orders to estimate the causal roles of policy interventions and voluntary social distancing. We then relate the residual variation in disease transmission rates to observable features of cities. We estimate significant impacts of policy and social distancing responses, but we show that the magnitude of policy effects is modest, and most social distancing is driven by voluntary responses. Moreover, we show that neither policy nor rates of voluntary social distancing explain a meaningful share of geographic variation. The most important predictors of which cities were hardest hit by the pandemic are exogenous characteristics such as population and density.

Suggested Citation

Allcott, Hunt and Boxell, Levi and Conway, Jacob and Ferguson, Billy and Gentzkow, Matthew and Goldman, Benny, What Explains Temporal and Geographic Variation in the Early Us Coronavirus Pandemic? (October 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27965, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3714457

Hunt Allcott (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Levi Boxell

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Jacob Conway

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Billy Ferguson

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Matthew Gentzkow

Stanford University ( email )

Benny Goldman

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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