The Impact of Statewide Stay-at-Home Orders: Estimating the Heterogeneous Effects Using GPS Data from Mobile Devices

Junjie Guo

Executive Summary:

In response to the spread of COVID-19, most states in the U.S. have ordered nonessential businesses to close and residents to not leave home unless necessary. This paper estimates the impact of these stay-at-home orders on the mobility of Americans using GPS data from mobile devices. Recognizing the heterogeneity in both mobility and the orders across states, I use the synthetic control method at the state level to estimate the impact of individual orders instead of pooling them together for an average effect. I find the impact does vary significantly across orders/states. For example, the estimates suggest that the orders in Michigan and Wisconsin increased the fraction of their residents at home all day by about 5.5 and 4 percentage points, respectively, while the corresponding estimate for Ohio is small and insignificant. In addition to the effectiveness of the orders in limiting the spread of COVID-19, these estimates are also informative of the responsiveness of Americans when the orders would be lifted.

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