Non-pharmaceutical Interventions and COVID-19: Do County- and State-Level Policies Predict the Spread of COVID-19?

J Econ Race Policy. 2023;6(2):126-142. doi: 10.1007/s41996-022-00112-w. Epub 2023 Feb 15.


This study examines the impact of county- and state-level policies on the spread and severity of COVID-19 in communities in the USA during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We use county-level COVID-19 death and case data to examine the impact of county- and state-level mandates and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on the spread and severity of COVID-19. Following previous work by Amuendo-Dorantes et al. (2020), we utilize a strategy that incorporates the duration of NPI implementation within a county. Specifically, we examine aggregated measures of mask mandates, daycare closures, stay-at-home orders, and restaurant and bar closures. In addition to the implementation and duration of NPI policy, we examine the role of pre-existing factors that contribute to social determinants of health in a locality. We incorporate information on the incidence of prior health conditions, socio-economic factors, and demographics including racial and ethnic composition, share of immigrant population of counties, and state governance in our estimations. To alleviate the possible endogeneity of COVID-19 outcomes and NPIs, we use instrumental variable estimation and our results show that collectively NPIs decreased the intensity of the pandemic by decreasing the total deaths and cases. Furthermore, we find the magnitude of the impact of NPIs increases the longer they are implemented. We also estimate a specification that allows for heterogeneity of NPI impact based on the racial and ethnic composition of counties. Our results suggest that NPIs have a non-uniform impact in counties with different racial and ethnic compositions.

Keywords: COVID-19; Instrumental variables; Non-pharmaceutical intervention; Race and ethnicity.