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Total shutdowns, targeted restrictions, or individual responsibility: How to promote social distancing in the COVID-19 Era?

Christopher Cronin () and William Evans

Journal of Health Economics, 2021, vol. 79, issue C

Abstract: We examine the impact of early state and local COVID-19 policies to encourage social distancing. Outcomes are daily foot traffic at establishments spanning ten key industries, across which transmission risk varies substantially. Policies include state of emergency declarations, blunt general restrictions such as stay-at-home (SAH) orders, and targeted rules such as restrictions on bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, and schools. Exploiting variation in the timing of policies in difference-in-difference models, we show that much of the decline in foot traffic early in the pandemic was due to private precautionary behavior. SAH orders explain almost none of the foot traffic decline in industries with high risk of virus transmission, but they do explain a substantial share of the decline in moderate- to low-risk industries such as outdoor sports and visits to parks. Targeted restrictions tend to impact intended industries, as well as complementary ones. We show that the impact of targeted restrictions is largest in counties with no SAH restrictions, suggesting that better targeting of public restrictions can have important efficiency gains.

Keywords: COVID-19; Foot traffic; Stay at home (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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Citations: View citations in EconPapers (7)

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DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2021.102497

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Journal of Health Economics is currently edited by J. P. Newhouse, A. J. Culyer, R. Frank, K. Claxton and T. McGuire

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