Japanâ€™s Voluntary Lockdown
Tsutomu Watanabe and
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Tsutomu Watanabe: Graduate School of Economics, University of Tokyo
No CARF-F-492, CARF F-Series from Center for Advanced Research in Finance, Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo
Japanâ€™s government has taken a number of measures, including declaring a state of emergency, to combat the spread COVID-19. We examine the mechanisms through which the governmentâ€™s policies have led to changes in peopleâ€™s behavior. Using smartphone location data, we construct a daily prefecture-level stay-at-home measure to identify the following two effects: (1) the effect that citizens refrained from going out in line with the governmentâ€™s request, and (2) the effect that government announcements reinforced awareness with regard to the seriousness of the pandemic and people voluntarily refrained from going out. Our main findings are as follows. First, the declaration of the state of emergency reduced the number of people leaving their homes by 8.6% through the first channel, which is of the same order of magnitude as the estimate by Goolsbee and Syverson (2020) for lockdowns in the United States. Second, a 1% increase in new infections in a prefecture reduces peopleâ€™s outings in that prefecture by 0.026%. Third, the governmentâ€™s requests are responsible for about one quarter of the decrease in outings in Tokyo, while the remaining three quarters are the result of citizens obtaining new information through government announcements and the daily release of the number of infections. Our results suggest that what is necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19 is not strong, legally binding measures but the provision of appropriate information that encourages people to change their behavior.
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