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Are We #Stayinghome to Flatten the Curve?


  • James Sears
  • J. Miguel Villas-Boas
  • Sofia Berto Villas-Boas
  • Vasco Villas-Boas


The recent spread of COVID-19 across the United States led to concerted efforts by states to “flatten the curve” through the adoption of stay-at-home mandates that encouraged individuals to reduce travel and maintain social distance. Combining data on changes in travel activity and human encounter rates with state policy adoption timing, we first characterize the overall changes in mobility patterns that accompanied the spread of COVID-19. We find evidence of dramatic nationwide declines in mobility and human encounters prior to adoption of any statewide mandates. Then, using difference-in-differences along with weighted and unweighted event study methods, we isolate the portion of those reductions directly attributable to statewide mandates. Once states adopt a mandate, we estimate further mandate-induced declines of between 2.1 and 7.0 percentage points relative to pre-COVID-19 baseline levels. While residents of mandate states soon returned to prior business visitation patterns, the impacts on distances traveled and human encounter rates persisted throughout the observed mandate periods. Our estimates of early mobility reductions and the responses to statewide stay-at-home policies convey important policy implications for the persistence of mobility behavior changes and states’ future reopenings.

Suggested Citation

  • James Sears & J. Miguel Villas-Boas & Sofia Berto Villas-Boas & Vasco Villas-Boas, 2023. "Are We #Stayinghome to Flatten the Curve?," American Journal of Health Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(1), pages 71-95.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:amjhec:doi:10.1086/721705
    DOI: 10.1086/721705

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