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Is the Cure Worse than the Disease? County-Level Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States


  • Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina

    (University of California, Merced)

  • Kaushal, Neeraj

    (Columbia University)

  • Muchow, Ashley N.

    (University of Illinois at Chicago)


Using county-level data on COVID-19 mortality and infections, along with county-level information on the adoption of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in the United States, we examine how the speed of NPI adoption affected COVID-19 mortality. Our estimates suggest that advancing the date of NPI adoption by one day lowers the COVID-19 death rate by 2.4 percent. This finding proves robust to alternative measures of NPI adoption speed, model specifications that control for testing and mobility, and across various samples: national, restricted to the Northeast region, excluding New York, and excluding the Northeast region. We also find that the adoption speed of NPIs is associated with lower infections, as well as lower non-COVID mortality, suggesting that these measures slowed contagion and the pace at which the healthcare system might have been overburdened by the pandemic. Finally, NPI adoption speed appears to have been less relevant in Republican counties, suggesting that political ideology might have compromised their efficiency.

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  • Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina & Kaushal, Neeraj & Muchow, Ashley N., 2020. "Is the Cure Worse than the Disease? County-Level Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 13695, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp13695

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    1. Dhaval Dave & Andrew I. Friedson & Kyutaro Matsuzawa & Joseph J. Sabia, 2021. "When Do Shelter‐In‐Place Orders Fight Covid‐19 Best? Policy Heterogeneity Across States And Adoption Time," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 59(1), pages 29-52, January.
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    3. Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina & Borra, Cristina & Rivera Garrido, Noelia & Sevilla, Almudena, 2020. "Timing is Everything when Fighting a Pandemic: COVID-19 Mortality in Spain," IZA Discussion Papers 13316, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Diane Alexander & Ezra Karger, 2023. "Do Stay-at-Home Orders Cause People to Stay at Home? Effects of Stay-at-Home Orders on Consumer Behavior," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 105(4), pages 1017-1027, July.
    5. Yun Qiu & Xi Chen & Wei Shi, 2020. "Impacts of social and economic factors on the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in China," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 33(4), pages 1127-1172, October.
    6. Amanda Guimbeau & Nidhiya Menon & Aldo Musacchio, 2020. "The Brazilian Bombshell? The Long-Term Impact of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic the South American Way," NBER Working Papers 26929, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    2. Shenoy, Ajay & Sharma, Bhavyaa & Xu, Guanghong & Kapoor, Rolly & Rho, Haedong Aiden & Sangha, Kinpritma, 2022. "God is in the rain: The impact of rainfall-induced early social distancing on COVID-19 outbreaks," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C).
    3. Antoci, Angelo & Sabatini, Fabio & Sacco, Pier Luigi & Sodini, Mauro, 2022. "Experts vs. policymakers in the COVID-19 policy response," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 201(C), pages 22-39.
    4. Asli Demirgüç-Kunt & Michael Lokshin & Iván Torre, 2021. "Opening-Up Trajectories and Economic Recovery: Lessons after the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo Group, vol. 67(3), pages 332-369.
    5. Goolsbee, Austan & Syverson, Chad, 2021. "Fear, lockdown, and diversion: Comparing drivers of pandemic economic decline 2020," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    6. Cantor, Jonathan & Sood, Neeraj & Bravata, Dena M. & Pera, Megan & Whaley, Christopher, 2022. "The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and policy response on health care utilization: Evidence from county-level medical claims and cellphone data," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
    7. Lisa Hanzl & Miriam Rehm, 2023. "Less Work, More Labor: School Closures and Work Hours During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Austria," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(4), pages 252-284, October.
    8. Nicole Turcheti & Amy A. Laurent & Christina Delgado & Kayla Sainati & Kris Johnson & Eva Y. Wong, 2022. "Social, Economic and Overall Health Impacts of COVID-19 on People Living with Disabilities in King County, WA," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(17), pages 1-18, August.
    9. Amanda C. Stype & Mehmet E. Yaya & Jayson Osika, 2023. "Non-pharmaceutical Interventions and COVID-19: Do County- and State-Level Policies Predict the Spread of COVID-19?," Journal of Economics, Race, and Policy, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 126-142, June.
    10. Kozhaya, Mireille, 2022. "The double burden: The impact of school closures on labor force participation of mothers," Ruhr Economic Papers 956, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    11. Alexandre K Ligo & Emerson Mahoney & Jeffrey Cegan & Benjamin D Trump & Andrew S Jin & Maksim Kitsak & Jesse Keenan & Igor Linkov, 2021. "Relationship among state reopening policies, health outcomes and economic recovery through first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 16(11), pages 1-21, November.

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    More about this item


    COVID-19; mortality; infections; non-pharmaceutical interventions; United States;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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