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New Study Says U.S. Governors Who Acted More Quickly on Social-Distancing Saved Lives


WASHINGTON (April 13, 2020) – New econometric analysis by Technology Policy Institute President Scott Wallsten offers further proof that state governors who acted quickly to institute Coronavirus social-distancing policies saved more-and lost fewer-lives than those who did not.
“State governors have largely been at the forefront of social distancing efforts to mitigate the coronavirus,” Wallsten writes on TPI’s blog.  “Some governors acted quickly, others did not. This analysis suggests that social distancing rules mattered and governors who acted quickly saved lives.”

His new econometric analysis suggests that, on average:
  • Each day a state waited to close non-essential businesses relative to the first coronavirus death was associated with 0.36 additional deaths per million people.
  • Each day a state waited to close schools relative to the first death was associated with 0.28 additional deaths per million people.
  • Each day a state waited to issue a stay-at-home order relative to the first death was associated with 0.09 additional deaths per million people.
The new econometric study makes use of data from two sources: the New York Times Github repository and the Institute for Health and Metrics Evaluation. It focuses on deaths per million people as well as the dates each state closed schools, closed non-essential businesses, and implementation of stay-at-home orders.

Wallsten says his analysis shows that social distance rules are working, but warns that people “should interpret these results carefully.”  Among his caveats: the study aggregates up to the state level, potentially obscuring local differences; social distancing rules are endogenous to the number of deaths; and the coefficients may not always capture the effects of that specific rule, particularly with the stay-at-home order.

The TPI senior fellow says more work is needed to determine how to lift the restrictions now in place.

Contact: David Fish, 571-389-4446, dfish@techpolicyinstitute.org

The Technology Policy Institute

The Technology Policy Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization that focuses on the economics of innovation, technological change, and related regulation in the United States and around the world. More information is available at http://www.techpolicyinstitute.org/.